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Many Children Among Bangladesh Cyclone Casualties


Nearly half of affected population in Bangladesh are children, says UNICEF

More than four days after Cyclone Sidr ripped through the coastline of Bangladesh, wreaking carnage upon mostly poor coastal dwelling communities, the official death count now stands at just under 3000 according to the latest government figures. However, estimates from other aid agencies put the death toll at more than 5000.

Nearly half of the affected population are children and an estimated 400,000 of them are under the age of five. Children are believed to number high amongst the casualties - many have drowned or have been injured by falling trees although no figures are as yet available.

With cold weather on the way children and women require urgent life-saving assistance such as medical supplies, food, clothing and shelter to be able to survive.

Other critical priorities include ensuring access to a safe water supply and sanitation facilities to mitigate the threat of waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery, to which children are particularly susceptible - though as yet there have been no reports of any outbreaks.

The UNICEF Representative for Bangladesh Louis-Georges Arsenault described scenes of utter devastation witnessed this morning after visiting a village in Patuakhali district.

"The Charkhali village on the riverbank has been completely wiped away for a three kilometre stretch - not a single house, tree or structure is standing," said Mr Arsenault.

"There is total destruction of crops, infrastructure, and people's livelihoods. Children and families here are in acute need of food and shelter. Seeing this devastation goes beyond all imagination. Food, shelter and cash assistance should reach places like these immediately. And there is a need for long term support to these communities in order to rebuild their lives."

Hundreds of villages have been razed to the ground or have literally ceased to exist. Electricity systems have failed throughout the country, cutting off channels of communication.

The infrastructural damage to houses, public buildings, schools and roads, is extensive. One of the government's disaster preparedness measures included the evacuation of approximately 3.2 million people to safe places from along the coastline in 15 districts.

Most of these people have lost their homes and are now internally displaced. It is believed that 90 per cent of houses in the affected areas have been completely destroyed.

These estimates are based on rescue and field missions undertaken over the last three days and are bound to rise as the full extent of the destruction unfolds.

To date many remote areas have yet to be reached. Survivors are short of food and water as the Bangladesh Army and relief agencies try and access the affected areas under extraordinarily difficult conditions to deliver urgently needed humanitarian aid.

Currently a total of 732 medical teams are functioning in the affected districts.

As yet there is no complete picture of damage to schools and educational institutes but so far 792 have been destroyed, and 4,393 partially damaged.

Worst affected areas

The number of cyclone affected districts has risen to 21 with the Government identifying Bagerhat, Patuakhali, Barguna, Pirojpur, Barisal, Jhalkhathi, Bhola, Madaripur, Gopalgonj, Shariatpur, Khulna, Satkhira as the worst affected with the following sub-districts classified as the most badly hit according to the latest assessments:

* Bagerhat District: Sarankhola, Morelgonj

* Patuakhali District: Kalapara, Galachipa, Mirgagonj

* Barguna District: Amtali, Patharghata

* Pirojpur District: Bhandaria, Mathbaria

* Jhalokhathi District: Kathalia

UNICEF Response

UNICEF is buying 10,000 family kits which include shelter material, cooking supplies and clothes.

UNICEF is supporting the national response to the needs of children and women in the areas of health, water and sanitation, education, nutrition and child protection.

UNICEF is supporting Department of Public Health Engineering to repair tube-wells, providing cash assistance for the transportation of water to the affected areas and supplying jerry cans though more are needed.

Though stocks of essential medicines to address possible disease outbreak are adequate UNICEF is supporting the Government to reestablish cold chain and replenish vaccine supplies. UNICEF is working with WFP to distribute food and high energy nutritional biscuits in the 5 worst affected districts.

Children in affected districts are suffering from severe emotional distress. Many have been displaced and separated from their families. Traditional support and care arrangements are no longer functioning and psychosocial support for these children will be crucial to their long-term well-being. UNICEF will help provide psycho-social support through trained NGO partners in shelter homes and communities. They will organize recreational sessions and exercise vigilance to protect vulnerable children.

UNICEF has taken action to provide long term psychosocial support to 30,000 children in the 6 most affected districts. An assessment is being done with NGO partners and Save the Children USA to identify children displaced/separated/distressed from the cyclone. The first intervention is recreational kits which are already pre-positioned with partners NGOs and trained facilitators.

UNICEF is collaborating with Save the Children Alliance, particularly SC USA, UK and local NGOs in the 2 most affected districts, Barisal and Patuakhali. Two NGO partners have 150 facilitators and volunteers with 300 recreational kits - who are ready to take immediate action for the protection of a minimum 3,000 most vulnerable children.

In case of distressed children, a referral system will be established with specialized agencies.

UNICEF is in the process of procuring family kits, plastic sheets and more dry food as needed. The most commonly used dry foods are flattened rice, puffed rice and molasses. UNICEF is ready to provide cash assistance for procurement and distribution of dry food.

Funding

The estimated funding requirements for immediate action amount to $2,355,000. The funding requirements will be revised once the full extent of the damage and the assistance needed will have been assessed.

About UNICEF

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.

ENDS

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