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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Caring for children hit hard by the tsunami

© UNICEF India/2005
Three-year-old Nandini lost her mother to the tsunami. She is now being cared for at a UNICEF-supported child care centre in Siruthur village, Tamil Nadu, India.

By Pallava Bagla

SIRUTHUR VILLAGE, India, 30 March 2005 - Three-year-old Nandini is barely able to speak, but the sadness in her eyes tells a tragic tale.

She lost her mother to the devastating tsunami of 26 December, and her father, Ellamprai Selvan, finds it difficult to look after her properly, because he has to go out every day to look for work.

Thanks to a UNICEF-supported programme, help is available. A child care centre is providing basic care for Nandini, and for 35 other children living in a relief camp in Tamil Nadu. The centre is assisting their surviving parents in coping under these extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

© UNICEF India/2005
A girl plays at a UNICEF-supported child care centre in Siruthur village, Tamil Nadu, India.

The centre providing care for Nandini is one of more than 350 such centres, set up in the worst affected areas across Tamil Nadu. All centres are equipped with toys, books, clean water, and food, and are staffed by trained caregivers. Rajeshwari, a survivor of the tsunami in Siruthur village, is just one of the 2,000 local residents who have been trained as caregivers by UNICEF.

“Vulnerable children have to be protected in the aftermath of the tsunami,” said Dr. Prakash Gurnani, a UNICEF Health and Nutrition Officer. Dr. Gurnani added that UNICEF intends to spend over $550,000 to bolster this programme.

With 35 toddlers constantly shouting “teacher, teacher” to gain her attention, Rajeshwari’s work is challenging but rewarding. She engages the children in singing songs and playing games. She also cooks their midday meal, a much-relished porridge made of rice and lentils, supplemented with a boiled egg once a week. The centres also provide psychosocial counselling to help children cope with the traumatic experience.



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