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UNICEF races against time to help Myanmar children survive

© UNICEF Malaysia/2008/Nadchatram
UNICEF Malaysia Representative Youssouf Oomar stresses that time is of the essence to ensure children receive critical aid to help them survive the devastating conditions in Myanmar following Cyclone Nargis.

US$ 25.57 million needed over the next six months for relief efforts for children

UNICEF appeals to Malaysians to support its Myanmar relief efforts

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 May 2008 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working full speed to deliver critical aid and supplies to help Myanmar’s children who are struggling with their daily survival, following the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. And to help make a difference, the UN’s children agency is appealing to Malaysians to support its Myanmar relief efforts.

According to UNICEF Malaysia Representative Mr. Youssouf Oomar, the killer cyclone has caused the death of a reportedly large number of children, with many more missing, orphaned, as well as injured and traumatised.

“The situation on the ground is certainly dire. Thankfully, UNICEF has had a presence in Myanmar since 1950. So we have been on the ground from day one providing life saving supplies to the hundreds and thousands of children and women who lived through the cyclone and floods, but who now need urgent help to survive,” said Mr. Youssouf.

Time is of the essence

“Our pre-positioned supplies however are not sufficient for the weeks and months ahead. In situations like this, time is of the essence between life and death. Every second can make a difference in the life of a Myanmar child,” he added. “We appeal to Malaysians – individuals and corporations – to please help support our relief efforts with donations”.

© UNICEF Myanmar/2008
UNICEF workers, a member of the Myanmar Red Cross Society and several other health workers travel by boat to a remote village in Kawhmu Township with basic medical supplies.

In conjunction with the agency’s global appeal, UNICEF Malaysia has launched its “Myanmar Children’s Cyclone Appeal 2008” to facilitate donations from interested individuals and corporations in Malaysia. Those who wish to make donations to the Appeal, can do so through cheque, bank transfers (Maybank Account No. 514329427587) or by credit card through UNICEF’s global website.

According to UNICEF’s ground assessments, the most pressing need at the moment is to provide as many affected families with clean and safe drinking water. UNICEF health workers in Myanmar have said that 20 per cent of children in the worst affected areas already have diarrhea and dysentry, and cases of malaria have also been reported.

Grappling with destruction to deliver aid

On Friday, UNICEF delivered 3 million water purification tablets to Yangon aboard a Thai Airways plane. The tablets provided by UNICEF can purify five million litres of contaminated water, enough for the needs of 200,000 people for one week. With many roads still blocked by debris and fallen trees, distributing purification tablets is quicker and more practical than attempting to distribute large quantities of potable water.

But these supplies still fall far short of actual needs. UNICEF has issued a global appeal for US $25.57 million (approximately RM 80.3 million) over the next six months to assist survivors of the cyclone.

Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on 2 and 3 May 2008, making landfall in the Ayeyarwady Division and directly hitting the country’s largest city, Yangon. Forty townships in Yangon Division and 7 townships in Ayeyarwady Division remain on the Government’s list of disaster areas. The cyclone, considered by far the worst natural disaster to strike the country has virtually wiped away homes, schools and health facilities, while roads, bridges and powerlines are totally demolished.

The official death toll as at 9 May is 22,997, with 42,119 missing and 1,430 injured. The UN estimates that the lives of some 1.5 million people have been altered by the cyclone.

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Video

13 May 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the growing threat of disease in Myanmar, in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.
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