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Needs of children and women prominent in appeal for communities devastated by recent floods in southern Laos

VIENTIANE, 22 October 2009 - UNICEF and other UN agencies have joined the Government of the Lao PDR to launch an international appeal for funds to assist the recovery of communities in the south of the country following the devastation caused by Typhoon Ketsana last month.

The appeal was presented in Vientiane by the Minister for Social Welfare, Mrs. Onechanh Thammavong, along with Mr. Hiem Phommachanh, Vice Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ms Sonam Yangchen Rana, UN Resident Coordinator, to an audience that included international donors, representatives of NGOs and the UN.

To support the Government’s own relief actions over the next six months, the appeal is seeking $10,153,872 for approximately 178,000 people affected by the floods. 

“This Appeal will ensure that the response is effectively coordinated amongst humanitarian partners and the Government,” said Ms Yangchen Rana, “and that the most affected and vulnerable receive the assistance and protection they need to restore their lives.”

The typhoon devastated parts of five southern provinces -- Savannaket, Attapeu, Saravane, Champassak and Sekong. Fifteen people died and tens of thousands lost their homes and livelihoods in the severe flooding triggered by the storm. The typhoon struck during the lean season when household food stocks are at their lowest, and many farmers have lost their upcoming harvest. 

As part of the appeal, UNICEF is asking for $1.5 million to address the needs of children and women in health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child protection.  Assessment teams made up of Government, UN and NGO staff are currently visiting flood-hit areas.

Health interventions will focus on providing integrated maternal and childcare services for affected communities through outreach visits.  These visits will pay particular attention to the nutritional needs of women and young children because the flood-affected areas include some of the country’s poorest communities.

Vitamin A, iron and folate supplements and de-worming tablets will be distributed, and a project providing multiple micro-nutrient supplements (known as Sprinkles) for children aged 6-59 months will be expanded. The monitoring of the nutritional status of young children and women will be reinforced.

 To counter the increased dangers posed by dirty water, poor sanitation and mosquitoes, oral rehydration salts (for diarrhea treatment) and insecticide-treated bed nets will be procured and provided to poor families and displaced households, along with life-saving communication materials alerting people to the increased health risks that they face.

More than 200 villages suffered damage to their water supply and sanitation installations – the rehabilitation of which will be a priority of the WASH response (a sector where – as in protection and education – UNICEF will lead and coordinate the activities of other partners). Meanwhile, repairs will be undertaken to water and toilet facilities in more than 90 schools. Some schools – especially those with older, wooden classroom blocks, were badly damaged by the floods, and UNICEF will coordinate the replacement or rehabilitation of buildings serving over 21,000 primary school children.

To deal with the likely traumatisation of children and vulnerable populations by the floods, UNICEF is requesting the resources to provide psycho-social support and life skills education to some 20,000 vulnerable children and their families.

In the weeks since the disaster, UNICEF and other UN agencies have sent food, water and hygiene supplies to provide immediate support to the worst-hit communities, and is working with the government and other development partners to respond to people’s medium and long term health, agricultural, infrastructure and livelihood requirements.

For further information, please contact:
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York,
Tel + 212 326 7452
E-mail: pmccormick@unicef.org




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