NEW YORK, 2 September 2005 – UNICEF today expressed heartfelt sympathy to the families who lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, urging those affected to hang on to hope.
"Our hearts go out to all the victims of this tragedy, especially the children," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "All those who are suffering loss and despair should know that the world is with them."
Veneman, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, has traveled through the affected region many times over the years and said she was astonished by the extent of the damage. "After many years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and six months traveling the world with UNICEF, I have seen a lot of disaster areas, including areas hit by the tsunami," said Veneman. "This looks as bad as any natural disaster I've ever seen."
Based on UNICEF's experience in the tsunami and elsewhere, Veneman said that saving lives and keeping people healthy, nourished, and sheltered were likely to be the top priorities for many days to come. But she added that getting children back into some sort of school or makeshift classroom would be an important next step to ensure their emotional recovery. She praised the swift and generous action of neighboring states and communities that have already opened their schools to children displaced by the disaster.
Veneman has been in touch with senior U.S. officials and said that UNICEF – along with the rest of the United Nations – is exploring how it might help. UNICEF keeps pre-packed emergency supplies in its global supply hub, for example, and a list of these items is being forwarded to the U.S. relief officials.
UNICEF urges people around the world who want to help to contribute to any of the excellent relief organizations that operate in the United States, such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Lutheran Relief, and others.
* * *
For further information:
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF New York Tel: (+1) 212 326-7261
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York Tel: (+1) 212 326 7452
UNICEF's Allison Hickling is working as a volunteer in Texas. Read her account of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.