May 12, 2008 12:37 ET

UNICEF Concerned About Emotional Distress of Children

Child- friendly spaces set up in camps sheltering people affected by Cyclone Nargis

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 12, 2008) - UNICEF is setting up child-friendly spaces in camps giving shelter to people affected by Cyclone Nargis. These spaces offer care and protection for children and young people especially those who have lost or been separated from their families. Just in Laputta Township in the Irrawaddy Delta, UNICEF is currently trying to identify the parents of 24 children sheltering with people they do not know.

The child-friendly spaces can also serve as makeshift schools while UNICEF works towards getting children back to school in time for the opening of the school year on June 1. In addition, UNICEF has ordered large quantities of "schools-in-a-backpack", a more mobile version of the "school-in-a-box" kit used in emergency situations around the world.

"In any situation where you have children living under extremely stressful conditions, both physically and emotionally, it is important for their welfare that they are provided with a space where they feel safe and provided for - where they can begin to return a little bit to normal life" said Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar.

According to UNICEF, up to 90 per cent of the schools in the affected areas have been damaged to some degree. This adds up to some 3,000 primary schools and more than 500,000 pupils. UNICEF will set up safe learning spaces with tents and provide essential learning packages for the children who have no school to go to.

Since the cyclone hit on May 3, UNICEF has been distributing food, water, medicines and shelter equipment. In the wake of the disaster, lack of access to clean water and poor sanitation, inadequate shelter and poor nutrition pose particular threats to children. This leads to an increased risk of diarrhea which can be deadly to children living in precarious conditions such as these. Flooding can also be a source of mosquito breeding and can lead to outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever, which are endemic in Myanmar. UNICEF water and sanitation experts are also concerned that the breakdown in the power supplies and sanitation systems may lead to a high risk of infections and water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

UNICEF has 130 staff in country, 9 zonal offices and a headquarter office in Yangon.


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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Contact Information

  • UNICEF Canada
    Karen Snider
    Media Relations Officer
    Cell: (647) 203-7455
    Email: ksnider@unicef.ca