SITTWE, Myanmar, 15 May 2013 – As Cyclone Mahasen threatens to hit the communities in Rakhine State, where thousands of people are displaced by conflict, UNICEF is ready to support the government of Myanmar to respond to humanitarian needs.
The living conditions of the people in Rakhine are already precarious as a result of inter-communal conflict and displacement. Should the storm make heavy landfall, their situation will become very fragile.
Even if a direct hit on Rakhine is averted, heavy rainfall and possible flooding that come with the cyclone are likely to endanger sanitation and safe water supply and increase the threats to health – especially for children.
Together with other UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations, UNICEF is working closely with the government to make sure that local residents are relocated to relatively safe areas, and that stockpiles in warehouses are ready to meet needs.
The agency has increased additional staff to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, over the past two days.
“UNICEF, along with other UN agencies and INGOs, is busy in Sittwe, especially in the northern part of Rakhine, to make sure that supply, provision and human resource capacity are deployed and to review different mechanisms to respond,” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar.
UNICEF fully supports the commitment by President Thein Sein and the Government of Myanmar at a press conference in Yangon to carry out emergency preparedness and response without racial and religious discrimination, and to save every life as the utmost priority.
The press conference detailed the government’s actions in relocating groups of vulnerable people to safety and its response plans in consultation with communities. The government has sought international cooperation and contributions in responding to the emergency.
Along with other international humanitarian agencies, UNICEF urges the government to ensure transparency, accountability, regular and open channels of communication, coordination and timely action in carrying out relief and response activities.
“It is important that all communities at risk are reached on the basis of humanitarian principles and equity,” said Bainvel. “The cyclone can exacerbate the vulnerability of displaced people but this can also be a time when divisions along religious and ethnic lines are transcended, and solidarity is shown with the most vulnerable, especially children, to unite people – and we should not miss this opportunity.”
UNICEF is also looking into increasing preparedness in other parts of the country such as Chin State, Mandalay region and Kachin, where strong winds and heavy rainfalls may further worsen the situation for vulnerable communities.
UNICEF calls for greater financial support especially for water, sanitation and hygiene.
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.
In June 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States with UNICEF launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under the age of five. Since then, under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, more than 170 countries have signed up and renewed their commitment to child survival.
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