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Hurricane Gustav Strikes Children The Hardest

Hurricane Gustav Strikes Children The Hardest, Warns UN Agency

New York, Aug 29 2008 6:10PM

Hurricane Gustav has forced some 6,300 people from their homes in Haiti, where torrential rains pounded the deforested southern peninsula of the country earlier this week, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported today.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has begun feeding those displaced by the deadly hurricane, which raged through Haiti on Wednesday, killing at least 51 people as well as destroying homes, livestock and crops.

“With WFP stocks already in place, our partners on the ground have been able to begin distributing food to some of the affected families,” said WFP Country Director Myrta Kaulard.

“Many people in these areas of southern Haiti already suffer from malnutrition or micronutrient deficiencies, and cannot afford this kind of upheaval,” Ms. Kaulard added.

Residents of the urban cities of Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Leogane – most affected by the tropical storm – are already suffering from extreme poverty and soaring food prices are aggravating the situation.

“Whenever a natural disaster such as Gustav hits the region, the consequences of its impact are amplified,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Haiti Annamaria Laurini.

As an immediate response, WFP’s partners in the area are distributing rice, beans and oil to 2,000 families, and 159 people in shelters are receiving two cooked meals a day, for an initial period of four days.

Nearly 45 per cent of the country’s population is under the age of 18 and children are the most vulnerable to the grinding poverty, high food prices and natural disasters.

UNICEF is especially concerned about the hurricane’s impact on schools. Already less than half of primary school age children in Haiti attend school, and the country can not afford to have this number further eroded.

“If schools are seriously damaged or used as temporary shelter, this could seriously delay children’s return to school, which is due in about a week,” said Laurini.

Media reports say Gustav has been responsible for 68 deaths so far across the Caribbean, and forecasters have indicated it could hit New Orleans and oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico next week as a category four or five hurricane, the most severe on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

ends

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