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Up to 300,000 Children Affected by Back-to-Back Hurricanes in Haiti, says UNICEF

PORT-AU-PRINCE, 6 September 2008 – Flooding caused by rains that lashed Haiti after a recent series of back-to-back hurricanes has affected an estimated 650,000 people, of which 300,000 are children.

The aftermath of Hurricanes Fay, Gustav and Hanna, which have passed through the region in close succession over the past three weeks, has forced thousands of people to flee to their rooftops, with many unable to return to their homes for days. Important bridges have been destroyed and landslides have rendered roads impassable throughout the country, making it difficult to get help to those in need. And the situation is further complicated by the risk of social and political unrest, in a country where a food crisis that led to violent riots in April remains unresolved.

Life-saving water, food and supplies were rushed to Gonaives, the most affected city, on Friday in the only ways possible: by helicopter and by boat. The estimated 70,000 people taking refuge in shelters there will benefit from supplies of drinking water and food from UNICEF and WFP. Tarpaulins are also being provided by UNICEF to shelter affected families, as are water purification tablets and other crucial sanitation supplies to help prevent the spread of waterborne diseases, which can be one of the biggest killers of children in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

“The initial push to provide aid to Gonaives is a start, but there is a great deal more to be done to help children and families that have been affected by the storms throughout the entire country,” says Nils Kastberg, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

UNICEF has mobilised over US$ 1 million to respond to the immediate needs of those affected, and a Flash Appeal for funds to aid in the response will be launched in the coming days by all UN agencies in Haiti. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) has pledged 300,000 Euros to date to support UNICEF in its response to the crisis. Additional supplies, including family hygiene kits, blankets and oral rehydration salts, are on the way to Haiti to provide relief to victims of the storms throughout the country.

Nearby Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica have also been hit by the recent storms and UNICEF is providing relief supplies to affected families and assessing future needs.

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

Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York, Tel:  +2 12 326 7452, pmccormick@unicef.org

Tamar Hahn, Regional Communication Advisor, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
Mobile: +507 6780 9075, Email: thahn@unicef.org





4 September 2008:
UNICEF Director of the Office of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault talks about preparing for and responding to natural disasters in the Caribbean.
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8 September 2008:
UNICEF Regional Director Nils Kastberg speaks to UNICEF Radio about the damage caused by Hurricane Ike in the Caribbean.
 AUDIO listen

4 September 2008:
UNICEF Haiti Communication Officer Louis-Etienne Vigneault discusses the consequences of three major storms crossing over Haiti during the past three weeks.
 AUDIO listen
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