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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Keeping children healthy in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 1 year after the tsunami

© UNICEF India/2005/Bagla
Biju was born 2.5 months after the Indian Ocean tsunami hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands last December, killing 3,500 people here.

By Priyanka Khanna

CAR NICOBAR, India, December 2005 – One year after the tsunami struck the Andaman and Nicobar Islands off the coast of India, killing about 3,500 people – one third of them children – 46,000 people here are still living in temporary shelters. Nutritional supplementation and disease prevention measures have helped keep children healthy; work is proceeding to restore essential services.

“The destruction from the tsunami was almost total,” says Subhash Misra, UNICEF Programme Coordinator for the Islands. “The trees are gone – especially the coconut trees which were so important here.”

© UNICEF India/2005/Bagla
Biju sleeps under a mosquito bed net on Car Nicobar Island where malaria is endemic. UNICEF has distributed 20,000 bed nets in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands since the tsunami.

UNICEF was the only humanitarian agency allowed to operate across the 572-island archipelago after the tsunami, and remains the administration’s main partner in recovery.

Action against disease

Nutritional supplementation is vital in keeping children healthy. Working in collaboration with local government, UNICEF is providing vitamin A and fortified biscuits, and supports medical check-ups from temporary health centres.

A joint vitamin A and measles immunization campaign in these islands (also carried out in Tamil Nadu state on the mainland) was crucial in preventing any major outbreak of disease in the area after the disaster.

© UNICEF India/2005/Bagla
Fish which eat mosquito larvae have been introduced into the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to help combat the spread of malaria.

Malaria is endemic in Andaman and Nicobar. UNICEF has helped in the distribution of 20,000 bednets and mosquito repellent in the Islands, and has taken steps to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, including introducing fish which eat mosquito larvae. As a result, the number of malaria cases reported has declined since the tsunami.

UNICEF is also helping to train local health workers and working to restore the local child care centres, called 'anganwaadis'.

“UNICEF’s contribution is seminal and phenomenal,” says Vivek Porwal, the Deputy Commissioner of Car Nicobar Island.

Rachel Bonham Carter contributed to this story from New York.




UNICEF correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on how UNICEF has helped children in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands stay healthy one year after the tsunami. (Produced by Priyanka Khanna in India.)

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