Children, already weak from walking long distances and poor nutrition, were at the highest risk of falling ill or dying from water and sanitation related diseases, such as diarrhoea and cholera.
UNICEF, working with other relief agencies operating in Liberia, responded by transporting water, chlorinating shallow wells and constructing latrines.
Over the next several months, UNICEF appealed for and received funding for emergency water and sanitation activities including solid waste disposal to clean up Monrovia, promoting hygiene targeting cholera “hot spots,” upgrading water and sanitation facilities in schools and re-establishing government capacities to implement these services.
The young are the most vulnerable
Children are usually the first to get sick and die from water and sanitation-related diseases, including diarrhoea, cholera and malaria, which claim the lives of 3.4 million children every year.
Recognizing its significance to children and their families, UNICEF has been working in the area of water, environment and sanitation for almost 40 years and supports these programmes in 86 countries in all regions of the developing world.
The organization is a leader in emergency response worldwide to a broad range of both naturally occurring disasters like floods, droughts and earthquakes and man-made ones caused by wars and civil strife.
First on the ground
UNICEF is frequently designated the lead agency for coordinating the emergency response for water and sanitation by the United Nations system and the donor community.
An ever increasing amount of UNICEF’s water and sanitation resources are dedicated to emergencies - both natural and human made – in which poor communities face the greatest danger.
“When natural disasters like earthquakes and floods or man-made disasters like conflict destroy or contaminate water supplies, then the lives of children are in great peril,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy.
Because children are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of dirty water in emergencies such as natural disasters and conflicts, UNICEF is committed to ensuring provision of safe water and adequate sanitation within 72 hours of the onset of an emergency.
As part of its immediate response to emergencies, UNICEF distributes its “Basic Family Water Kits,” containing a collapsible bucket, bars of soap, purification tablets and instructions for their use in the local language. UNICEF provided washing facilities and access to decent sanitation facilities.