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UNICEF reaches cyclone hit children and families with life-saving supplies

DHAKA, 7 December  2007 -  UNICEF is assisting an estimated 72,000 children and 109,000 families with life-saving supplies, food and shelter for the cyclone survivors in Bangladesh. The devastating Cyclone Sidr killed over 3,200 people and affected 8.5 million as it hit 30 out of 64 districts on 15 November. Close to half of the affected population are children.

“UNICEF is concentrating on keeping the affected children healthy and warm after the massive destruction they witnessed three weeks ago, and which left them not only without homes, schools and basic food but also deeply shaken,” said Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh.  “The care and support children will need to recover from the situation must continue not only for days, but also for the coming weeks and months. The government of Bangladesh is on the right track in planning long term recovery efforts and finding solutions to better prepare for and manage natural disasters. UNICEF will continue to support the government’s recovery and rebuilding efforts,” he added.

Nearly 5,000 family kits are being distributed this week. A family kit contains 14 essential items to help families survive who have lost everything including their homes. Basic clothing, utensils, a mat, bedspread and plastic sheet are among the contents. UNICEF distributed 92 metric tons of highly nutritious BP5 biscuits to 47,000 families including those located in remote areas. 

More UNICEF non-food assistance is in the process of reaching the affected – 50,000 soaps and 21,000 jerry cans are in the distribution pipeline. And 70,000 children’s warm clothes, 100,000 blankets and 60,000 tarpaulins are set to arrive by mid-December before the winter chill sets in.

UNICEF is going to procure blended food to supply children and women over the next three months. The next harvest is not due until early summer.

So far, 49 Child Friendly Centres (CFC) have been established serving about 10,000 children. The CFCs has been well received by both children and parents for offering children the opportunity to play and learn. Parents also appreciate being able to focus on recovery efforts while their young children are looked after all day. Some 66 more CFCs are planned in the immediate future to respond to community needs.

Even though each CFC is planned for 200-250 children, in some places the number of children exceeded 400. Children are often seen gathering at CFCs earlier than they are expected. About 200 separated children have been located in four affected districts. UNICEF is working with the Department of Social Services to address the issues related to separated children.

UNICEF’s Education programme will supply text books and learning materials for children attending the CFCs to make up for lost school time. The ultimate goal, however, is to get the affected schools ready for children to resume their regular studies at an earliest possible time.

UNICEF remains optimistic about health issues. Major epidemics or disease outbreaks are not expected, but strong precautions are needed to ward off pneumonia and cold related diseases. The scarcity of drinking water has been largely overcome and access to tube wells re-established. This allows the focus to be shifted to restoring sanitation facilities and cleaning of ponds for general washing and cleaning purposes. UNICEF will continue the present round of relief distribution and response activities through December.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Zafrin Chowdhury, UNICEF Bangladesh, +880 1713 049469 zchowdhury@unicef.org
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York, + 1 212 326 7426, pmccormick@unicef.org
Veronique Taveau, UNICEF Geneva. +41 792169401, vtaveau@unicef.org
Miranda Eeles, UNICEF Geneva. +41 22 909 5715, meeles@unicef.org
Katey Grusovin, UNICEF South Asia Media Hub +91 9810530715, kgrusovin@unicef.org





6 December 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on UNICEF’s relief efforts in Bangladesh in the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr. 
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