May 11, 2008 13:48 ET

UNICEF REPORT: Desperate Conditions for Children in Camps Without Clean Water as Myanmar Cyclone Aftermath Worsens

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 11, 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, a UNICEF report stated today.

The information is contained in a new situation report received from UNICEF's 10 offices in Myanmar. It details the most urgent 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.

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 hospital suffering from deadly diarrhea 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 sending additional emergency supplies, expected to reach the area today.

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.

A priority concern for UNICEF is the identification of unaccompanied and separated children, as well as family tracing and unification. 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 have already begun the process of trying to trace the families of these children to reunite them.


The risk of life-threatening diarrhea and infectious diseases increases dramatically with every day. Children are highly susceptible to these problems and their impact is graver when the sufferers are under-nourished.

"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."

At present, UNICEF's priority is to provide life saving essentials to children and their mothers:

- On Saturday, UNICEF's Supply Division in Copenhagen packed 30 emergency health kits that will provide drugs, medical supplies, and basic medical equipment for 300,000 persons for 3 months. Other medical supplies, including intravenous glucose, thermometers, masks and gloves are also on the flight, which is a commercial plane to fly from Amsterdam Sunday,11 May 23:30 , expected to Bangkok Mon 19:50. Will be transferred to Yangon ASAP.

- Another shipment of nutrition supplies will be flown from Paris, via KLM on Sunday, 11 May, including fortified therapeutic milk. On Monday UNICEF will share a charter with UNHCR from Dubai into Yangon with 540 family water kits. Another flight arriving Monday will be carrying 32 tons of provisions including 20 large tents, essential drugs, and oral rehydration therapy.

- A UNICEF flight containing three million water purification tablets, good to purify five million liters of contaminated water, enough for the needs of 200,000 people for one week, landed on Friday and will be distributed following a customs check.

- UNICEF is constructing latrines and digging wells in the hardest hit areas.

- UNICEF is providing water purification tablets, oral rehydration therapies, essential drugs for infectious diseases and mosquito nets, but the quantities currently available are not sufficient to meet needs.

UNICEF staff in Myanmar have been able to distribute emergency supplies in the most affected regions using pre-positioned stock in the country prior to the cyclone, as well as with supplies purchased in 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.

Contact Information

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