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At a glance: United States of America

One family's struggle to survive

© UNICEF/2005/Nybo
Seven-year-old Gage and his mother LeeAnn survived Hurricane Katrina.

By Thomas Nybo

BILOXI, Mississippi, 8 September 2005 – Seven-year-old Gage and his mother LeeAnn are recovering after Hurricane Katrina swept through their neighbourhood. "It was a terrifying day,” says LeeAnn.

LeeAnn is doing everything she can to help Gage cope. “Mostly it's trying to keep him as close to normal before the hurricane, by games, toys, being able to play with his friends. He doesn't talk about it, but he doesn't sleep well."

LeeAnn and Gage were relatively lucky. They were unharmed, but the storm destroyed many of their neighbours’ mobile homes in Biloxi.

Gage’s school is closed and LeeAnn fears it won't open for another month. Making matters worse, the casino where she worked is also closed.  "So I think we're going to pick up what we have left and start over someplace else,” she says. “Get him in school – that's my number one priority. Find a place to live. Find myself a job, so I can keep him in food and shoes, and a roof over his head."
LeeAnn’s predicament is shared by many families along the Gulf Coast. Thousands of families are currently housed in temporary shelters across the southern United States, while many are being hosted by friends and relatives.

Mitigating the disaster’s impact

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.

UNICEF is concerned to see that schools are re-opened as swiftly as possible. 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.

Although children have often proved to be remarkably resilient in times of crisis, counselling can be necessary to help them deal with trauma.

Francis Mead contributed to this story from New York.




8 September 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on a family in Biloxi, Mississippi, looking to a future after Katrina.

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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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