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120 days after Nargis: Children’s needs are being met but threats remain

Potential threat of water shortages in dry season needs to be addressed

YANGON, 1 September 2008 — Children’s needs in Myanmar are being met four months after the cyclone hit the Ayeyarwady delta and the Yangon division, UNICEF said today.

Outbreaks of major illnesses have been avoided and routine immunization has been re-established. Children are studying in temporary safe learning spaces with new school materials. More than 17,600 children benefit from UNICEF’s psychosocial activities implemented through various government departments and NGOs.

However, the risk of water shortages is looming in the coming dry season due to difficulties in cleaning contaminated ponds which needs to be addressed immediately., according to UNICEF.

“Despite ongoing efforts to pump contaminated water out of the ponds, there is a risk that not all the water ponds can be cleaned and refilled before the beginning of the dry season”, said Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar. “It is crucial to identify high risk areas with potential water shortages now and to work closely with the government, communities, and our partner agencies to avoid severe water shortages in the coming months.”

The Myanmar government with ASEAN, UN agencies and other partners are working together in the Post Cyclone Nargis humanitarian efforts. UNICEF is leading the operation for water and sanitation.

UNICEF has supported the cleaning of 442 ponds. With the direct support of the Myanmar Government to communities and the additional help of aid agencies, a total of 1,800 ponds have been cleaned. However, while the immediate water needs are met in most areas, there is a fear that in some areas, the number of cleaned ponds will not be enough to cover the drinking and domestic water needs for the length of the dry season.

UNICEF, also leads the education, nutrition and child protection operation.

“Even though the cyclone has caused a tremendous amount of suffering, this is also a chance to build back better and improve the situation of children and families in Myanmar,” said Mr. Shrestha.

Cyclone Nargis destroyed or damaged over 4,000 schools and more than 600 health facilities and separated hundreds of young children from their parents and close relatives. In the first 120 days after the cyclone hit, outbreaks of major illnesses were avoided thanks to the immediate provision of clean water and sanitation facilities.

More than 25,000 children have received measles vaccination and Vitamin A supplements. Over 130,000 essential learning packages have been distributed to primary school students, more than 100 safe temporary learning spaces have been established and almost 800 schools repaired.. More than 17,600 children are benefiting from psychosocial activities in 101 Child Friendly Spaces. Over 130 health assistants, nurses and midwives have been deployed to the worst affected areas for six months to support outreach activities. Some 18,000 latrines have been constructed.

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 more information, please contact:
Anna Stechert, UNICEF Myanmar, +951 375527-32 ext 1443 astechert@unicef.org
Sandar Linn, UNICEF Myanmar, +951 375527-32 ext. 1439 slinn@unicef.org





July 2008: UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on the ongoing relief efforts in Myanmar after May’s deadly cyclone.
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