Floods devastate north-eastern Brazil, destroying schools and displacing thousands

© Agencia Brasil/2010/Cruz
Barreiros, in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, was one of the municipalities affected by recent floods.

NEW YORK, NY, USA, 25 June 2010 – Severe floods damaged large areas of Pernambuco and Alagoas states in north-eastern Brazil this week. Residents continue to face the effects of heavy rains as authorities scramble to implement recovery efforts. 

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The floods have seriously damaged infrastructure including bridges, power supplies and rail lines. Efforts to house the more than 150,000 people displaced by the floods have been hampered by the large number of public buildings that are destroyed.

Devastated schools

“Many of the schools, especially the schools in Alagoas state, have been completely destroyed,” said UNICEF Brazil Programme and Planning Specialist Michelle Barron.

© Agencia Brasil/2010/Cruz
A collapsed bridge rests in a swollen river as floodwaters fill the city of Barreiros in Pernambuco state, Brazil.

She added that the destruction of schools has had a double impact on children. While any disruption in schooling affects the well-being of children, in an emergency situation, local schools would also be used as shelters for homeless families.

“There’s nowhere in the communities to host families in shelters,” said Ms. Barron. “Families have lost absolutely everything.”

Shelter and stability

Despite these challenges, the government and its partners have been working to provide supplies and shelters to those displaced by the floods.

© Agencia Brasil/2010/Cruz
Floods have destroyed homes along the Una River in north-eastern Brazil.

UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education to help ensure that children in temporary shelters have access to educational materials. Along with the Ministry of Sports, UNICEF is also encouraging access to recreational activities and materials for children in the shelters – one way to bring them stability in the aftermath of a crisis.
Safe water and improved sanitation remain major concerns in both the short and long term. UNICEF is also closely monitoring the health situation among those displaced. In particular, health experts are watching for outbreaks of dengue fever, a virus-based disease spread by mosquitoes, which has been a concern in some areas of Brazil in the past.

Rain frustrates recovery

As relief efforts continue, further heavy rains have added to the challenges for recovery crews.

Local authorities are working to restore electricity and to get emergency drinking water, food and essential supplies to the affected areas. UNICEF is working with the local and national government to come up with a strategy for mapping the location of children affected by the floods, with the goal of ensuring that emergency relief efforts make the needs and rights of children and adolescents a central focus. 
UNICEF continues to monitor the situation in the area and is helping to disseminate essential information. It also remains in constant contact with Brazil’s civil defense authorities at both national and state levels to monitor the situation and recovery efforts.




24 June 2010: Programme and Planning Specialist Michelle Barron speaks with UNICEF Radio about the recent floods in north-eastern Brazil.
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