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News note

UNICEF is providing initial assistance to 15,000 persons affected by the tropical storms in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, 3 September 2008 – UNICEF is stepping up its assistance to an initial 15,000 Haitians affected by three successive storms in the past few weeks which hit the country and caused significant damage in all areas. This assistance is likely to increase in the coming days as emergency teams reach currently inaccessible areas.

Preliminary information shows that the damage caused by the storms over the past days is more extensive than Hurricane Jeanne that devastated the city of Gonaives in 2004. The UN Country Team will launch an appeal in the coming days to respond to the cumulative effect of the recent storms in Haiti.

Emergency supplies, including 15,000 blankets, 12 water tanks, 5,000 hygiene kits, 20,000 water purification tablets and oral rehydration salts, are being airlifted to the country. In addition, WFP and UNICEF have mobilized 7.5 metric tons of food and 60,000 liters of potable water ready to be transported by sea to the affected population in Gonaives. The people of this city have climbed onto their rooftops to escape the flooding between the night of the 1 and 2 September, and have waited hours for rescue - without food or water, and lashed by the rain. The water is expected to become stagnant prolonging the emergency and increasing the risk of waterborne diseases.

Most families who lost their homes are taking shelter in schools, which endangers children’s return to the classrooms at the start of school scheduled for next week. For a country like Haiti, where only 51 per cent of girls and 48 per cent of boys attend primary school, the consequences of a delay in the resumption of classes, coupled with soaring food prices, an ongoing political crisis and the devastation of hurricanes, could be dramatic.

“This year’s hurricane season hits Haiti very hard,” said Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.  “Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is extremely vulnerable to disastrous flash floods because most of its hillsides have been stripped of trees by people desperate for charcoal as cooking fuel. The hurricane season is far from over, several storms have already hit the country, each of them aggravating the damage left by the previous one,” she added.
An inter-agency mission will fly to Gonaives as soon as weather conditions allow, to assess the damage caused by the recent floods.

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:
Annamaria Laurini, Representative, UNICEF Haiti, Telephone: +509 2245-3525, Email: alaurini@unicef.org
Louis-Etienne Vigneault-D., Communication Officer, UNICEF Haiti, Mobile: +509 3463 0056, Email: lvigneault@unicef.org




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