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UNICEF welcomes decision to allow international aid workers

Senior UNICEF official views hard hit areas

YANGON, 26 May 2008 – UNICEF hails the government’s decision to grant full access to international aid workers to every part of cyclone-battered Myanmar.   UNICEF plans to rapidly move forward with mapping  and serving the children and women in the severely affected areas, said Ms. Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and Pacific.

Rao Singh is in Myanmar from 23 to 27 May on a fact-finding mission focused on cyclone Nargis and to participate in an ASEAN-UN conference held Sunday in Yangon.  She traveled to the Irrawaddy division, one of the areas badly hit by the cyclone which lashed some parts of Myanmar on over three weeks ago.

Around 2.4 million people have been severely affected by the cyclone, and 40 per cent of them are children. Many are now homeless, have lost their personal possessions, and are exposed to many risks. Access to clean drinking water, sanitation, proper nutrition and shelter are immediate priorities for children.

Another top priority is getting children back to school – an essential step in helping children recover from distress and improve their quality of life. Myanmar aims to reopen schools in some of the affected areas by 2 June 2008.

Rao Singh said, “The sooner we can get education facilities or child-friendly spaces going, the better it would be for children.”

Commenting on the ASEAN-UN conference which she attended on Sunday, Rao Singh said that with the assurances put forth by both ASEAN and the UN Secretary General, the children’s agency hopes to access affected areas comprehensively and thoroughly assess the situation of women and children.

“I am very excited that our international staff have started their visits to the affected areas. Based on the meetings that I have been having with senior government officials here, I get the impression that they are committed to do the best that they can to address the consequences of the disaster. I really hope that we will be able to do much more than what we have been able to do so far.”

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, UNICEF has been providing tonnes of supplies for various health, education, water and sanitation difficulties as well as giving technical assistance to its local counterparts.

Rao Singh also met with three ministers to express UNICEF’s support for the people of Myanmar and explore how to scale up relief efforts. The Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement supports UNICEF and its partners’ efforts to trace and reunite children with their families. UNICEF is also encouraged to continue its measles immunization activities as expressed by the Minister of Health. Later today Rao Singh will meet with the Minister of National Planning and Economic Development.

Staffed by 130 people, UNICEF has been present in Myanmar since 1950, working in the fields of basic education, child protection, health and nutrition, as well as water and sanitation.

Attention broadcasters:  Interviews with Ms. Rao Singh and more VNS on Myanmar is available at:  thenewsmarket.com/unicef

About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Kendartanti Subroto, UNICEF Myanmar, +95 1 375527 Ext. 1441, ksubroto@unicef.org 
Michael Bociurkiw, UNICEF Myanmar, +95 1 375527 Ext. 1443, mbociurkiw@unicef.org
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York tel: +1 212 326 7426, pmccormick@unicef.org
Miriam Azar, UNICEF New York, tel: +1 212 824 6949, miazar@unicef.org
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York, tel:  + 1 212 326 7452 kdonovan@unicef.org
Michael Klaus, UNICEF Geneva, tel:  +41 22 909 5716 mklaus@unicef.org


 

 

 

Video

22 May 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the visit to Myanmar by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
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Audio

23 May 2008:
18-year-old Myo Min Aye Win from Yangon describes the ways that people in Myanmar are helping each other rebuild their lives after Cyclone Nargis.
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