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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

UNICEF Director says death and devastation overwhelming

© UNICEF/HQ05-0017/Noorani
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy speaks with children and women seeking refuge at a welfare centre after the tsunami wrecked their homes

NEW YORK, 3 January 2005 - UNICEF is warning that early estimates of the number of children killed by the tsunami in Sri Lanka are too low. More than 30,000 people died when giant waves swept the island on December 26.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy who is visiting some of the hardest hit regions says the level of death and devastation is overwhelming.

“Early in this crisis UNICEF had estimated that at least one third of the dead were children,” she says. “We now believe that percentage was too low. In the camps I visited throughout the country, children were simply too small a proportion of the survivors.”

As the rescue work continues Ms. Bellamy says UNICEF will be spending millions on measures to keep children alive.

“This means clean water, adequate sanitation, basic nutrition and routine medical care. These are basics that cannot be over emphasized. Keeping children who survived the floods alive and healthy must be our priority.”

It’s also thought that more children than expected have been orphaned or separated from their families. In the north alone there are 3,000 new orphans. Ms. Bellamy says UNICEF will focus on reuniting children with their families, protecting them from exploitation and getting them back to school which helps them to overcome trauma by restoring some routine.

Within days of the disaster UNICEF had provided medical kits for 150,000 hospital patients and these are already being used. Clean water has arrived at shelters and UNICEF has been working with other agencies to support the Sri Lankan government’s relief efforts.

Ms. Bellamy will be meeting with the President of Sri Lanka before flying to Indonesia. In many places, UNICEF has been asked to take the lead in coordinating international efforts to help children.




3 January 2005: UNICEF Director sees devastation in Sri Lanka

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27 December: UNICEF Communication Officer Martin Dawes talks about the current situation in Sri Lanka after the country was devastated by tsunamis

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