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The children have suffered enough – the time to act is now!

© UNICEF/ HQ08-0379
A boy peers from the door of an aid distribution centre near the town of Dedaye in Irradwaddy Division. The town was among the worst affected by the cyclone.

UN Secretary General to Myanmar: Focus on saving lives

40% of cyclone affected children struggling to survive

KUALA LUMPUR, 21 May 2008 – The United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon who will arrive in Myanmar on Thursday, has urged the nation’s military government to focus all its efforts on saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of its people, whose lives are hanging precariously on the line.

“This is a critical moment for Myanmar. We have a functioning relief program in place but, so far, have been able to reach only about 25 per cent of Myanmar's people in need”, said the UN chief who will be in the Cyclone Nargis ravaged country until 23 May to tour devastated areas.

His trip comes at a time of growing concern about the fragile situation of children in the region. The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people have been severely affected by the violent and largely unexpected storm, forty per cent of whom are children.

One million affected children

On 2 and 3 May, Cyclone Nargis swept through one of Asia’s poorest economies, tearing down homes, schools, hospitals and powerlines and devastating the lives of around one million children and their families. The government’s official toll is 77,738 dead and 55,917 missing, with damages estimated at US$ 10 billion.

© UNICEF/ HQ08-0426
UNICEF workers offload 550 boxes of basic family water kits that arrived at the Yangon international airport. The kits will support the needs of some 5,500 families who survived Cyclone Nargis.

With an established presence in the country of more than fifty years, a workforce of 131, networks with government agencies and NGOs, as well as pre-positioned supplies, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been able to reach out to tens of thousands of children and their families with critical life-saving provisions.

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.

In Malaysia, UNICEF’s Representative Mr. Youssouf Oomar called on individuals and corporates to step forward and act quickly and compassionately to avoid a second wave of disaster from befalling Myanmar’s impoverished children.

Not a second longer to waste

“We cannot afford to waste a single second. We cannot afford to politicise the issue. Children’s lives are at stake. Scaling up the distribution of all resources including funding and personnel to save lives must happen, and happen now if we are to prevent a further tragedy,” said a concerned Mr. Youssouf. “The children have suffered enough.”
 
UNICEF together with its partner UN agencies, and local and international NGOs have worked relentlessly on the ground from day one to ensure efforts continue to reach more children and families each day. Since its fundraising appeal, responses from the UN children’s agency have included:

  • the deployment of UNICEF’s international health professionals to affected areas to assist emergency relief activities;
  • a measles vaccination campaign in the Laputta Township;
  • delivery of equipment to Laputta for the distribution of clean and safe water;
  • establishment of at least five UNICEF supported child-friendly spaces with 21 in the process of being established in Yangon Division; and
  • delivery of supplies to repair 39 schools in the Shwepyithar and Hlaingthayar Townships in Yangon Division. Included are 70 school-in-the-box kits to benefit almost 20,000 children.

On 9 May, the first international shipment of UNICEF supplies arrived in the country with three million water purification tablets to meet the needs of 200,000 survivors for a week. Since then, additional supplies including water kits, oral rehydration salts, emergency medical kits, medical equipment, and life-saving drugs have touched down in Yangon on both chartered and commercial flights.

Public in Malaysia who wish to support UNICEF’s emergency work in Myanmar can do so through a donation to the “Myanmar Children’s Cyclone Appeal 2008” by cheque or bank transfer. For more details, please visit our dedicated appeal website.

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NOTE TO EDITORS:
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.

 

 
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