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As Hurricane Irma threatens the lives of thousands of children, UNICEF is preparing to respond

• Hundreds of young people in areas under high alert are receiving information via UNICEF’s U-Report tool to help them prepare for the emergency (@UReportGlobal)

PANAMA CITY, 5 September 2017 - In the last few hours, storm Irma has turned into a powerful Category 5 hurricane, the highest possible level in the Saffir-Simpson scale. The hurricane looks likely to be accompanied by strong winds and storms through its likely path through the Caribbean. If it continues in its current track it will bring devastating damage in the next few hours in the territories of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Maarten, St Kitts and Nevis and the Virgin Islands. It is then expected to hit the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba, directly affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, adolescents and their families.

Although it is still early to know the full impact that Irma will have in the region, the main concerns of UNICEF centre around the supply of drinking water and food, and the health and protection of children and adolescents.

“Considering the possible magnitude that Irma represents, it is both hugely urgent and necessary to be prepared, informed and vigilant so that we try to avoid the impact on the most vulnerable, that is to say children,” confirms Marita Perceval, Regional Director of UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean.

UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean, in coordination with the country offices and headquarters in New York, has activated emergency situation protocols, and is in constant contact with governments, the other United Nations agencies, and partner organisations to offer the required assistance and support.

UNICEF has also pre-positioned supplies of drinking water, unperishable food and medicines, and emergency kits to be distributed in coordination with national authorities in the most affected communities.

To ensure affected populations have direct access to information such as how to cope with the hurricane, UNICEF has activated its U-Report platform, which allows UNICEF to send messages to youth and adolescents that they receive via their Facebook Messenger and social media accounts. The number of youth that have asked to receive these messages has been increasing rapidly over the past 24 hours, particularly in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

UNICEF’s response to Hurricane Matthew

Irma has turned into the most dangerous natural phenomenon of 2017, and is now stronger than Hurricane Matthew of last October, a category 4 hurricane, that battered South Haiti and Southeast Cuba.
In Haiti alone, Matthew affected 3.2million people, of which 1.3million were children. UNICEF actively participated in the emergency response working alongside the national Government in key interventions centering around water, hygiene, education, protection, nutrition and health, at the same time responding to the spread of cholera.

UNICEF continues to work with its partners in the area, and as a result of these actions, has, amongst other results, rehabilitated 75 schools that have allowed 25,000 students to return to the classroom, 400,000 to have access to drinking water, and 80,000 people to receive attention at the medical points installed in the most affected areas.

In Cuba, around 150,000 people lost their belongings in the province of Guantanamo, and 90 per cent of houses in Baraoca were affected. Hurricane Matthew also affected more than 290 education centres in the province of Guantanamo, and caused damage to 96 per cent of schools and day care centres in Baracoa district.

Approximately 6,500 girls and 8,000 boys in the municipalities of Maisi, Imias, San Antonio del Sur, Baracoa and Yateras benefited from education and recreation kits donated by UNICEF. Additionally, 153 education centres and 83 communities received early years development kits, that offered early education to more than 12,700 children on the island. 

Available spokespeople
Maria Cristina Perceval, UNICEF Regional Director
Douglas Reimer, Chief of Emergency Unit

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in Latin America and the Caribbean Region, visit www.unicef.org/lac - and Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Press contacts:
Marisol Quintero, UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Panama
Phone: +507 6569- 2718 mquintero@unicef.org
Alfonso Fernández Reca, , UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Panama
Phone: + 507 6941-2277 afernandezreca@unicef.org


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