October 01, 2009 15:27 ET

Natural Disasters in Asia-Pacific Leave Millions in Need of Emergency Assistance

UNICEF leading relief efforts for children and families in region devastated by earthquake, typhoons

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 1, 2009) - Nearly 3 million people are now in immediate need of emergency assistance in countries across Asia-Pacific, after the region was struck by multiple natural disasters during the last week of September. UNICEF is now on the ground in eight countries and territories providing emergency services and supplies to address the urgent needs of affected children and families in the wake of devastating storms, earthquakes and tsunamis.

UNICEF is appealing to people across Canada to donate and support our relief efforts in Asia-Pacific that are helping millions of children and families in need of emergency relief.

"We must act now to meet the growing needs of millions of children and families that have been impacted by these disasters," said UNICEF Canada President and CEO Nigel Fisher. "UNICEF has always been able to count on Canadians to help us reach children in need around the world, and I know we can count on their support during this difficult time."

Typhoon Ketsana
On 26 September, Typhoon Ketsana hit Manila, capital of the Philippines, deluging it with over a month's worth of rain in 12 hours. A state of calamity has been declared and the Philippines Government has appealed for immediate international assistance. The death toll of the storm, known locally as 'Ondoy', has risen to more than 500. Over 2.5 million people have been affected, half of whom are children. Nearly 700,000 people are currently sheltering in 726 evacuation centres.

In response to the Philippines Government's appeal for assistance, UNICEF has already provided food, access to safe water and other emergency items and is appealing for more than US $4 million to spend on additional emergency relief for the Philippines. UNICEF is also providing emergency assistance in areas of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos that have also been struck by Typhoon Ketsana.

UNICEF has lead responsibility, among international donors, for responding to water, sanitation and nutrition needs. We also share responsibility for education, child protection and health. Our immediate focus is on the provision of clean water, adequate sanitation and hygiene as well as to ensure privacy and dignity for girls and women.

Conditions in the Philippines are likely to worsen with a new typhoon expected to make landfall in the northern parts of the country on Saturday. UNICEF is readying an emergency response for regions currently in the path of Typhoon Parma.

Indonesian Earthquake
UNICEF is deploying emergency staff to the province of West Sumatra to assess the immediate health, water, sanitation education and critical protection needs of children who survived yesterday's deadly earthquake.

According to initial estimates, a 7.6 Richter-scale earthquake killed at least 750 people on 30 September. The death toll is expected to rise sharply. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes in the coastal provincial capital of Padang and surrounding highlands. A third of those affected are estimated to be children.

UNICEF is ready to support the Indonesian government in tackling immediate needs such as ensuring the availability of clean water, sanitation facilities and hygiene kits, providing protective services and safe places for children, and by providing emergency early childhood care kits, school tents, school-in-a-box and recreational kits which help get children back to school quickly and build a sense of normalcy.

Samoa tsunami
On 29 September, American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga were hit by a tsunami, following an 8.3 magnitude earthquake striking off the coast of Samoa. The confirmed number of fatalities in the three countries has exceeded 150. Tens of thousands have been affected and there are reports of entire villages having been destroyed by the tsunami. It is believed that up to 6,000 children have been impacted by the tsunami in Samoa alone.

UNICEF's Pacific office, based in Suva, is sending a team to Samoa and Tonga to assist with a rapid assessment and focus on the needs of children and their families who have been affected by the tsunami. We are also offering assistance to American Samoa and are sending urgent immunization supplies to Samoa and Tonga to guard against an outbreak of disease. Emergency supplies of oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets will also be sent. UNICEF is also planning to set up nutrition, water and sanitation programs as well as working with Samoa and Tongan partners to provide protection for women and children.

How you can help
People across Canada can help children and families affected by the natural disasters in Asia-Pacific by donating online at www.unicef.ca or by calling 1-800-567-4483. Donations will help UNICEF ensure immediate and long term emergency relief, including provision of health care, access to safe water and sanitation and emergency supplies for families.

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. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

Contact Information

  • For more information or to arrange an interview
    with spokespeople in the region, please contact:
    UNICEF Canada, Christopher Tidey
    Media Relations Officer
    416 482-4444 ext. 8831