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Copy of Urgent action needed to sustain flood affected children in Bangladesh

Receding water allows access to populations

DHAKA, 18 August 2004 - Falling water levels after some of the worst floods in the history of Bangladesh have allowed better access to affected populations. After a two day visit to three areas, Sylhet, Sunamganj and Brahmanbaria, UNICEF Representative Morten Giersing said the children he saw were clearly badly affected, showing visible signs of suffering from Vitamin B deficiency and living in makeshift shelters around their former homes.

"A large number of tube wells were also submerged and these will have to be cleaned and disinfected otherwise we will have widespread cases of diarrhea," he said in a telephone message from Brahmanbaria.  UNICEF has field staff in all the main affected areas and are concentrating their relief efforts amongst the most vulnerable.   

This week UNICEF has received five million water purification tablets, 934 boxes of syringes (0.5 ml) and 1200 boxes of syringes (5 ml). Another 8,800 vials of measles vaccine will arrive in Bangladesh by Monday. The disease can spread rapidly in displaced populations that do not have adequate shelter or food.

"We are not seeing as many cases of diarrhea being reported as we would have expected and that means a lot of efforts by the government and health officials has paid off. We are seeing though many deaths from drowning amongst young people in particular and that is a matter of real concern. In the short term we now have to concentrate on making sure that children returning home get micronutrients and supplements for their diet to stave off problems for physical and mental development and ensure that there is clean water available," said Mr. Giersing

UNICEF has already responded with relief operation that bolstered government efforts for provision of safe drinking water, sanitation facilities in shelters and medicines. UNICEF is appealing for 56 million US$ as part of the UN flash appeal to address specific needs of children and women for health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and protection.

For more information, please contact:
Naseem-ur-Rehman, Chief Communication & Information
Tel: 9335807, 9336701/392, 0171 595045




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