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Solomon Islands Flooding – 26,000 Children Affected

7 April 2014

Solomon Islands Flooding – 26,000 Children Affected and at High Risk of Disease

Donate at: www.unicef.org.nz/solomon-islands

UNICEF NZ is concerned for the 26,000 children estimated to have been affected by the extreme flooding in the Solomon Islands over the past few days, with many living in rural areas which have not been reached yet due to damaged infrastructure.

Extensive damage has seen entire communities destroyed, with a fifth of Honiara’s population displaced and the risk of disease high. UNICEF is now appealing for NZ$465,000 (US$400,000) to support those affected by the emergency.

An estimated 12,000 people are seeking refuge in at least 14 evacuation centres with these numbers expected to rise as more people are arriving daily. A total of 52,000 people have now been affected by the floods in Honiara, the Guadalcanal and other provinces.

UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialist in Honiara, Donald Burgess, has been visiting evacuation centres over the weekend of which many are in schools. “The sanitation in the centres, which are already overcrowded, is a big challenge. I went to a centre which has almost 2,500 people and it just wasn’t equipped to provide services to such a large number of people. There were only two toilets for men and two toilets for females and none were working.”

Outside the official evacuation centres there is also thought to be numerous informal settlements. There are growing concerns from those on the ground that flooded areas and contaminated water supplies will lead to increased risks of infection and outbreaks of water-borne and vector-borne diseases. The established water supply also continues to experience disruptions meaning the only safe water available is not fully functional or reliable.

Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director at UNICEF NZ, said, “In an emergency, children are especially susceptible to disease due to reduced access to food and nutrients and weak immune systems.

“Many of those affected were already from the poorest areas of Honiara and have lost what little they had. They have also suffered a huge trauma and will need intense psychosocial support that UNICEF can and will provide.

“Rapid assessments are currently underway by UNICEF and the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO). Limited distribution of food, water and tents has started but more supplies are urgently needed, especially in remote areas where assessments have not been possible yet.

“The main needs continue to be centred around emergency shelter, food, water and sanitation, as well as health supplies to combat the spread of conditions such as diarrhoea and mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Non-food items such as blankets and clothing will also be urgently required.”

At least nine schools have been turned into evacuation centres and rapid assessments will be needed to ensure schools can reopen after the current holiday period. In the absence of schools, UNICEF will establish child friendly spaces where children can continue their education in a safe environment.

UNICEF urgently needs funding of NZ$465,000 (US$400,000) to support our work in this emergency. Please donate what you can at www.unicef.org.nz/solomon-islands

About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.nz

ENDS

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