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At a glance: United States of America

Hurricane Katrina: Impact on children

© REUTERS/Jason Reed
A young Hurricane Katrina survivor in New Orleans collects her food ration

NEW YORK, 7 September 2005 – More than a week after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the southern coast of the United States, children continue to bear an unequal share of the suffering.

Many of the children and young people who survived the storm have lost their homes and schools and now find themselves living in temporary shelters far from their communities and friends.

UNICEF Senior Advisor on Child Protection Manuel Fontaine said the natural disaster has had a huge impact on children. 

“They have lost their parents, they have lost loved ones, their houses, they have moved away so now they have to find a new place to go to school, they have to be able to function in a completely different set up and environment,” he said.

Mr. Fontaine also stressed children’s natural ability, given the right kind of support, to bounce back from a disaster of this magnitude.

© REUTERS/Richard Carson
Children sleep on cots inside Reliant Hall in Houston, Texas

“We know from experience from all regions of the world that children have an incredible capacity to recover and resilience to face these kinds of events and get better,” he said.

“Most of them will not need very specialized medical assistance or therapy. The great majority are going to be able to recover from just getting involved in routine activities, getting back with their families, their siblings, resocializing and being comforted and cared for.”

Restoring schooling

While it is essential to ensure that adequate food, water, medicine, sanitation and shelter are available for everyone affected by the hurricane, UNICEF believes that it is also imperative to mitigate the impact of the disaster on children.

This can be done by reuniting separated children with their parents, family members or guardians as soon as possible, and by getting children back to a normal routine – through recreational activities and through enrolment in school, whether a temporary school or a permanent one.

Evidence has shown that in times of disaster, getting children back to a learning environment is one of the most effective ways of helping them to feel safe, cope with trauma and begin their emotional healing. Restoring schooling as soon as possible is critical.




7 September 2005:
UNICEF Senior Advisor on Child Protection Manuel Fontaine talks about how Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath have affected children.

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Frontline diary

UNICEF's Allison Hickling is working as a volunteer in Texas. Read her account of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Wednesday 7 September – Searching for loved ones

Tuesday 6 September – Evacuees at the Reliant Center

Monday 5 September - Volunteering to help in Katrina’s aftermath

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