|Children amidst the debris of their destroyed homes southwest of Yangon. Aid experts warn of a looming health crisis in Myanmar, where cyclone survivors face outbreaks of disease as they struggle to survive.|
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, USA, 8 May 2008 – To meet the urgent needs of children and families affected by the cyclone last weekend in Myanmar, UNICEF today issued an emergency appeal for $8.2 million. The initial funding request is part of an interagency appeal prepared with the organization's UN partners.
More relief funds are needed because pre-stocked supplies in the country will not be sufficient to meet critical needs in the coming days and weeks. It is becoming increasingly clear that Cyclone Nargis has caused unprecedented devastation. The authorities have declared five states and divisions in southwestern Myanmar to be disaster zones.
Two planes with UN relief supplies reportedly landed today in the former capital, Yangon, and two ships with UNICEF supplies should arrive soon – although “the port has been badly damaged and there are a lot of logistics to tackle,” according to UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault.
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|Homes destroyed in Haing Guy Island, southwestern Myanmar, the area hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis.|
1 million in dire need
As UNICEF races to bolster the relief effort for families in Myanmar’s low-lying Irrawaddy Delta, which bore the brunt of the storm, there are grave concerns that the children who survived Cyclone Nargis are now at risk from infectious diseases.
The UN estimates that 5,000 square km of the Irrawaddy Delta are underwater. The death toll is reported to be around 22,000, and there are fears that it could be significantly higher. An estimated 41,000 people are missing.
“It's one of the most densely populated areas of Myanmar, about 10 million people are affected and we suspect that 1 million people are in dire need of immediate supplies,” said UNICEF Representative in Myanmar Ramesh Shrestha.
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|In Labutta, a town in the devastated Irrawaddy Delta, cyclone survivors wait for relief supplies under open skies after losing their homes.|
‘They need immediate help’
Of all those affected by the cyclone and its aftermath, children are the most vulnerable.
Children are at increasing risk of diarrhoea and water-borne diseases, for example. UNICEF has about 130 technical and operations staff distributing pre-positioned supplies such as family health kits, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoeal dehydration, and tarpaulins for shelter.
“In situations such as these, children are highly vulnerable to disease and hunger, and they need immediate help to survive,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.
Tim Ledwith contributed to this story.
6 May 2008:
UNICEF Representative in Myanmar Ramesh Shrestha discusses UNICEF's emergency response to the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis.
Crisis in Myanmar
A month after deadly cyclone, classes resume
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits
UN Secretary-General appeals for further cyclone aid
UNICEF focuses on restoring normalcy for young survivors
UNICEF safe-water supplies arrive in Myanmar