UNICEF forges ahead for children in Myanmar's worst-affected cyclone areas
Senior UNICEF official views hard hit areas
KUALA LUMPUR, 28 May 2008 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will forge ahead rapidly to map and serve children and women in all severely affected areas of cyclone battered Myanmar, following the military government’s decision to grant full access to international aid workers.
UNICEF’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Director Anupama Rao Singh hailed the government’s decision during a fact-finding mission in Myanmar from 23 to 27 May to assess the situation of cyclone survivors.
“I am very excited that our international staff have started their visits to the affected areas. Based on my meetings with senior government officials in Myanmar, I get the impression that they are committed to do the best that they can to address the consequences of the disaster,” said Rao Singh who was also in Yangon to participate in Sunday's ASEAN-UN conference.
In Myanmar, Rao Singh traveled to the Irrawaddy division, one of the areas badly hit by the cyclone which lashed parts of Myanmar on 2 and 3 May. During her visit, she also met with three of the country’s ministers responsible for health, social welfare and national and economic development to express UNICEF’s support for the people of Myanmar and to discuss how best to scale up relief efforts.
Around 2.4 million people have been severely affected by the cyclone, 40% of them are children. Many are now homeless, have lost their personal possessions, and are exposed to many risks. Access to clean drinking water, sanitation, proper nutrition and shelter are immediate priorities for children.
Getting children back to school as quickly as possible is another key priority since it is an essential step in helping children recover from distress and improve their quality of life.
“I really hope that we will be able to do much more than what we have been able to do so far,” she added. “The sooner we can get education facilities or child friendly spaces going, the better it would be for children.”
UNICEF is helping with supplies to repair damaged schools as well as schooling and education kits for thousands of children. With support from the UN children's agency, Myanmar aims to reopen schools in parts of the affected area by 2 June 2008.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
With a presence in Myanmar since 1950, nine zonal offices and a head office in Yangon, a staff-force of 131 and pre-dispositioned supplies, UNICEF has been able to respond to the needs of cyclone survivors soon after the disaster struck.
Myanmar Cyclone Crisis 2008