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Children who survived Cyclone risk from infection

Children who survived Cyclone now at risk from infectious diseases

UNICEF races to bolster the relief effort for families in Myanmar’s flood-ravaged Irrawaddy Delta, there are grave concerns that the children who survived Cyclone Nargis last weekend are now at risk from infectious diseases.

A plane with United Nations aid has been granted permission to land in Myanmar, and two ships with UNICEF supplies should arrive in a matter of days. “The port has been badly damaged and there are a lot of logistics to tackle,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault.

The UN estimates that 5,000 square km of the low-lying Irrawaddy Delta are underwater. The death toll is reported to be around 22,000, and there are fears that it could be significantly higher. An estimated 41,000 people are missing, and hundreds of thousands are believed to be in desperate need of life-saving supplies.

Children are the most vulnerable

“It's one of the most densely populated areas of Myanmar, about 10 million people are affected and we suspect that 1 million people are in dire need of immediate supplies,” said UNICEF Representative in Myanmar Ramesh Shrestha, referring to the disaster zone.

Of all those affected by the cyclone and its aftermath, children are the most vulnerable.

Children are at increasing risk of diarrhoea and water-borne diseases, for example. UNICEF has about 130 technical and operations staff distributing pre-positioned supplies such as family health kits, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoeal dehydration, and tarpaulins for shelter.

“In situations such as these, children are highly vulnerable to disease and hunger, and they need immediate help to survive,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman.

To meet the urgent needs of children and women affected by the cyclone in Myanmar, UNICEF will issue an emergency appeal for $8.2 million tomorrow in Geneva. The initial funding request is part of an interagency appeal being prepared with the organization's UN partners.

More relief funds are needed because pre-stocked emergency supplies in the country will not be sufficient to meet critical needs in the coming days and weeks.


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