May 10, 2008 15:23 ET

Desperate Conditions for Children in Camps Without Shelter and Clean Water: UNICEF

Situation Worsens for Children Affected by Cyclone in Myanmar

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 10, 2008) - The situation for children continues to worsen in Myanmar as thousands of children have been separated from their families, many more are living in desperate conditions in relief camps, and some are drinking water from ponds covered with dead bodies, UNICEF staff in Myanmar reported today.

The new information is contained in a situation report received today from UNICEF's 10 offices in Myanmar.

"If there was ever a clearer sign that every second counts for children in Myanmar this is it," said UNICEF Myanmar's representative, Ramesh Shrestha. "This is a critical time for the children and families affected by the cyclone. The UNICEF team on the ground in Myanmar will continue to work around the clock to ensure children are provided for."

UNICEF staff have been providing daily reports from the ground ever since the devastating cyclone struck last weekend. The most recent report details the desperate needs of women and children and clearly shows the magnitude of devastation in the delta region.

In Bogalay Township, ponds are covered with dead bodies of humans and animals. Currently, people are trying to pump water from the pond, which can be bleached, but it can only serve the nearby communities. UNICEF is sending urgently needed supplies directly to this region, including live-saving oral rehydration salts, water purification chemicals, and essential drugs.

Also in this township, hospitals are overcrowded with up to 6,000 patients every day. The very grave threat of water-borne diseases is apparent with more people visiting hospitals suffering from deadly diarrhoea and dehydration. About 20,000 people from this township are displaced and living in 50 camps.

In Mawlamyinegyun Township, UNICEF reports that 50 per cent of villages were damaged out of 757 villages, and 20,000 people are currently staying in 20 camps. UNICEF is responding quickly, and additional emergency supplies are expected to reach the area tomorrow.

The situation is also desperate in Pyapon Township where 16,000 people have been displaced, now living in 35 camps. Conditions in these camps are appalling: in one camp there are only five latrines for 3,500 people. People in this area are suffering a severe shortage of food, insufficient shelters and they are drinking water from contaminated ponds. UNICEF continues to distribute emergency supplies in this region and assist in the construction of latrines in relief camps.

In all regions, the number of children who have been orphaned by the disaster or separated from their families is rapidly increasing. So far, UNICEF has identified at least 2,000 of these children from the Laputta Township, and it is expected that number of children will continue to rise. UNICEF is working to ensure these children have safe shelter and that their basic needs are met.

UNICEF staff in Myanmar have already begun the process of trying to trace the families of these children to reunite them. Child friendly spaces are being created to protect separated children.

UNICEF staff in Myanmar have been able to distribute emergency supplies in the most affected regions using supplies that were pre-positioned in the country prior to the cyclone, as well as with supplies purchased in Myanmar. However, those supplies are quickly diminishing and more aid is urgently needed.

A flight from UNICEF's warehouse in Copenhagen, carrying three million desperately needed water purification tablets landed in Myanmar yesterday at 8:45 a.m. These supplies will be distributed following regular customs checks in Myanmar.

Another flight carrying desperately needed vitamins and micronutrients is expected to arrive within the week. UNICEF is already helping to set up therapeutic feeding centres in the most affected areas of Myanmar.

UNICEF is one of the few international organizations that has a well-established, on-the-ground presence in Myanmar. UNICEF has worked in the country since 1950 and has 130 staff on the ground spread across nine zonal offices with a head office in Yangon.

To support UNICEF's work in helping to save the lives of women and children affected by this cyclone, please call 1-877-955-3111 or visit www.unicef.ca.


UNICEF is the world's leader for children, working in 156 countries and territories to save, protect and enhance the lives of girls and boys. UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, promotes quality basic education, protects children from violence, exploitation and AIDS, and is the world's largest provider of vaccines for developing nations. A global leader in emergencies with six decades of on-the-ground experience, UNICEF saves and rebuilds children's lives in natural disasters and conflict. UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations, schools, associations and governments.

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