Children are hardest-hit in emergencies
ST. GEORGE’S, GRENADA 12 September 2004 - UNICEF relief supplies arrived today in this country struck by a hurricane that wrought devastation upon thousands of families, hammering homes, schools, government institutions, disrupting electricity, water and sanitation services and telecommunications.
Health kits for up to 5,000 people over a 3-month period and 5,000 doses of oral rehydration packets to prevent dehydration from diarrhoea - a particular threat to children under five - were flown in this morning from the organization's regional center in Panama and were rushed through snarled traffic to the main hospital, where distribution began immediately.
The General Hospital is reporting a number of cases of children with diarrhoea. Children are also suffering from a range of maladies, some normal to childhood, and other complaints related to the psychological impact of losing their homes, their clothes and their playthings.
Most of the island's homes and schools have been destroyed or undergone significant structural damage. Hurricane Ivan, the worst in the Caribbean in at least a decade, struck Tuesday, the day after the school year began. An estimated 4,000 children are now living in shelters.
“The scariest part of this disaster for the children is that their regular routine has been completely thrown off,” said UNICEF Representative in Barbados Jean Gough, who is in Grenada and is meeting with Prime Minister Keith Mitchell today. “We are very concerned to get these children back to school as soon as possible where we can provide a protective environment to them.”
Other UNICEF staff, including a doctor and a psychosocial expert, arrived today to assist the government as it struggles to manage with limited resources. Many government workers have not yet been able to return to work. Water and sanitation engineers are also being flown in as part of the relief effort.
The shipment also included 200 collapsible water containers, trauma kits and other supplies.
“It is vitally important that the water and sanitation services begin functioning normally again, as disease spreads easily to children, and in Grenada right now, diet is poor, so the children are really at risk,” said Gough.
Gough called on international donors to assist Grenada get its life back on track. “It will be a long process of recovery,” she said. “And the danger is that Grenada -- and its children -- could be forgotten.“
UNICEF is also participating in the first assessments of damage caused by Ivan in Jamaica and emergency supplies are being flown in by UNICEF. With expectations that the hurricane will hit Cuba tomorrow, the agency's Havana office is on standby to provide assistance if requested by the government.
For further information, please contact:
In Grenada: Kathryn Donovan 246 230 5056
In Jamaica: Monica Dias 1 876 789 6117
In Panama: Robert Cohen, 507-676-3216
In New York: Gordon Weiss 212-326-7426