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UNICEF urges protection of children during floods

Flooded temple
© Bangkok Post/2011/Surapol

BANGKOK, 17 October 2011 – With growing numbers of households across the country either affected or threatened by flooding, UNICEF is urging families and communities to be better aware of how to best protect the health and well-being of children during disasters.

The massive flooding has affected 61 provinces in Thailand, making children more vulnerable to a variety of threats ranging from death due to drowning and outbreaks of disease to potential separation from their families. It is estimated that 500,000 children are currently affected by the floods, which to date have claimed the lives of 52 children.

Key actions to protect the health and well-being of children during floods and other disasters are highlighted in Facts for Life, a handbook that provides vital and practical information on child care and child development for parents, caregivers and communities. A Thai version of Facts for Life can be found at http://www.factsforlifethai.info , along with a printable pamphlet that outlines what to do in the event of a disaster.

Recommended actions include:

• Frequent washing of hands with soap, safe disposal of waste and drinking only bottled or boiled water. Lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene can lead to diarrhoea and the outbreak of disease.

• Mothers should continue to breastfeed. Using infant formula during floods carries a  high risk of contamination due to unclean water and can increase the chances of severe diarrhoea in babies. If infant formula is used, it must be prepared with water from a safe source, and a cup should be used instead of infant feeding bottle. Infant formula should never be distributed in areas where floods or other disasters have occurred without a proper assessment being conducted first by health personnel.

• Children can suffer from severe stress during disasters, especially when they have been removed from familiar surroundings. They need special care and attention, and should be allowed to maintain as normal as a routine as possible. “Child-friendly Spaces” can be established within evacuation centers to provide recreational and learning activities for children and help ensure a more protective environment.

UNICEF is encouraging ministries responding to the flood crisis to help ensure that key Facts for Life messages are widely shared with families and communities in affected areas.

“Experience from floods and other disasters around the world has shown that the simple and practical actions promoted in Facts for Life can save many lives and help children recover much more quickly from disasters,” said Tomoo Hozumi, the UNICEF Thailand Representative. 

UNICEF is printing 20,000 copies of a pamphlet containing key Facts for Life messages for distribution to families in evacuation centres.

Facts for Life, which has been translated into over 200 languages, is a publication of UNICEF, seven other UN agencies and the World Bank. The Thai-language Facts for Life website was launched in September by the National Institute for Child and Family Development, Mahidol University and UNICEF. 

For further information, please contact:

Mark Thomas, mthomas@unicef.org, 081 172 9902
Napat Phisanbut, nphisanbut@unicef.org 081 498 9333

 

 

 

 

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