Flooding and over-stretched facilities create hazardous conditionsNEW YORK, 25 January 2005 – Hundreds of thousands of tsunami survivors living in temporary camps face a growing risk of water-borne disease due to flooding of toilets and inadequate numbers of toilets and bathing facilities, UNICEF said today.
The sanitation situation is particularly worrying in Indonesia, where in some areas of Aceh Province only one in 1,000 people has access to a toilet. The shortage of toilets has been exacerbated by heavy rains, which have flooded many toilets in low-lying camps, prompting the government to announce the relocation of 21 camps for displaced people to higher ground.
“Rain and overcrowding is making a bad situation worse,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said Friday. “Emergency facilities are being over-stretched and construction of new toilets is not keeping up with the demand. Conditions are becoming miserable for families, leaving them little defense against disease.”
Children, who make up at least one-third of the overall population in the worst-affected countries, are particularly vulnerable to water-borne diseases like cholera and diarrhoea.
Heavy rains have worsened the situation in Sri Lanka as well, where some camps are flooded and many toilets are full and in need of emptying. While those residing in Sri Lanka’s 450 temporary camps have access to safe water, only 35 per cent of people in the camps have access to safe sanitation, UNICEF said.
And in the Maldives, 85,000 people on 69 islands have had their freshwater supply destroyed. The water supply is being restored, but hygiene and sanitation are serious problems.
UNICEF is working with governments to coordinate aid agency relief efforts across the tsunami-affected countries to restore access to safe water and sanitation. The agency’s relief activities include:
UNICEF’s emergency water and sanitation projects will be supported by the Tsunami Water and Sanitation Fund, created by the Clinton Foundation and UNICEF. The fund will also help the affected governments with longer-term management of water supply and sanitation systems, including such things as well digging and permanent toilet construction, especially in schools and health centers. In addition, the fund will support hygiene education and promotion in schools and community groups.
Many of the children affected by the tsunami lacked access to safe water and sanitation before the waves hit. Across South Asia, only 35 percent of people have access to a basic toilet and 84 percent to safe drinking water. Children living without these essentials are likely to become weak and malnourished by repeated bouts of diarrhoea and other water and sanitation-related illnesses.
In addition, many children in the region – particularly girls – are denied their right to education because they are busy fetching water or are deterred by the lack of separate and decent sanitation facilities in schools.
“Water is not just an immediate need, but a long-term development challenge,” Bellamy said. “Safe water and proper sanitation are essential to keep people alive today and give them a chance at having a better life tomorrow.”
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For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, access to clean water and sanitation, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of governments, businesses, foundations and individuals.
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