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BLOG: UNICEF on the Ground


UNICEF staff reporting directly from the field

UNICEF helps children and their families cope with emergencies and rebuild their lives in the aftermath of crises. Our continuing presence in virtually every country means that we are often on the ground helping children before disaster strikes – and we remain on wsite long after.  

Read updates from UNICEF staff members who are working to help children caught in the middle of an emergency.


Pakistan Floods
Haiti Earthquake

Pakistan Floods

Kandh Kot, Pakistan administered Kashmir
September 9, 2010
By Tania McBride


At the end of the week I traveled with the UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist Zahid Durrani to Kandh Kot, in the Kashmir district, located over 200 km from Sukkur city. The scenery was a complete contrast to the oppressive dusty, dry environment of Sukkur, and seemingly idyllic. The road carved a path through lush green fields of sugar cane and rice. Primitive mud brick buildings occasionally pierced the landscape and men and women could be seen bent doubled tending their crops. Children on donkey carts careened past water buffalos heading towards the nearest water hole to gain some respite from the intensity of the early morning sun.

However, crossing the Gudu Barrage over the Indus River, into Kashmor district, the picture changes. Where there were once fields, the floodwaters have literally swamped the land, roads, homes, and crops causing extensive damage. With the planting season due to start during the month of September, and the loss of animals to plough the fields where floodwaters have receded, the prognosis seems grim for many whose lives depends upon their ability farm the land they have inhabited.

Driving into Kashmor, the extent of the damage that hit the district four weeks ago can be seen. Newly formed lakes stretch for as far as the eye can see. It’s estimated that in Sindh alone over 27,000 km of the province is under water. Figures of those displaced this week jumped from 4 million to an estimated 7 million, clearly underlining that the worst of these floods is not over yet. Children and families shelter from the burning sun under elevated string beds and shade cloths on the roadside, those a little luckier, in tents in makeshift camps, with access to latrines and water supplies.

Kandh Kot village, home to many poor rural farming families, is submerged. Perched on a canal within sight of Kandh Kot, a makeshift camp which stretches for four kilometers along a tributary of the Indus River has sprung up. Straw structures covered with tarpaulins, line the river side. Fans and other household goods salvaged from the floods stand idle in the sun. Small children sit with their mothers under the shade, or play in the sandy roadside, and dart in and out of the traffic which is a myriad of donkey carts, water buffalo and older gentlemen struggling to ride their bicycles through the grooves in the sand.

A food distribution is in process, with men heaving the 100kg grains of rice onto their backs, and other children helping their fathers push the carts of food to their basic temporary homes.

A small temporary learning space is running next to the distribution. It is noticeable that students are all boys chanting the alphabet in Sindhi, cramped on mats under the shade. Many of the girls I observed were down by the hand pumps washing clothes and cooking utensils with washing soap supplied by UNICEF.

A young man tells me that they are waiting, and watching. They can see their fields and houses and as soon as it is possible, many of them will rush back to their homes and fields to assess the damage wrought by the floodwaters.



    © UNICEF/Pakistan/McBride
  A woman walks through an area with hundreds of displaced people, in Kandh Kot village.

For all its primitiveness, this canal camp appears relatively clean. UNICEF and local NGO partner SROS (Sindh Relief Support Organization), have established eighteen hand pumps and forty two emergency latrines to support the 4,450 villagers who have found themselves homeless.

UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygeine Specialist Zahid Durrani checks the quality and use of the latrines. “They are clean and it is clear that they are being used,” he says as we watch young women disappear into the blue latrines. “There are no telltale signs of open defecation,” he muses, encouraging me to look at the ground and surrounding areas. Through SROS, UNICEF has supplied hygiene kits for the children and their families of the canal, which include water purification tablets, bathing soap and washing soap and toothpaste and toothbrushes amongst their items.

However, the risk of disease and illness remains precariously high, and UNICEF and partners are scaling up to meet the immense needs of the people of the Kashmor district. I am reminded of the young girl and villagers I met earlier in the week from Kandhkot who were encamped on the dusty roadside in Sukkur, and thought of the immense journey they had made to find assistance. Her silent plea, echoes in my mind, "We need help."


Sukkar, Sindh province
September 6, 2010
By Tania McBride

We bumped along the broken dirt streets, the Suzuki van going at high speed with dust leaving a plume behind us as we raced after the lady health workers. The UNICEF supported Lady Health Workers programme has teams of women throughout the Sindh province, in Pakistan, who are involved in training communities in household hygiene education as well as distributing supplies for families around the Sukkar district - particularly oral rehydration salts, diarrhoea medications and skin treatment. The fight is to mitigate the spread of illness before disease takes hold.

Despite a 50 degree plus heat and fasting for Ramadan, Mr Nizam Uddin Bharchoond, the project manager for local NGO Hands, looked cool and calm. He had his eyes closed in silent meditation.

“I have never in my lifetime seen a disaster such as this,” he tells me. We had spent the morning talking to women and children in Sukkar, who were being attended on the roadside camp by the UNICEF supported Mobile Health clinics. Hearing their stories and getting a real understanding of the extreme conditions that they were now living in was at the same time desperate and heartbreaking.



© UNICEF/Pakistan/McBride
Nizam Uddin Bharchoond (right), the project manager for local Sukkar NGO Hands, with members of his extended family who fled the floods in their home village of Rarhi and sought refuge in Sukkar.

Nizam and I had been on a futile mission to track down the lady health workers, as it wasn’t initially part of our schedule for the day. As more than 200 makeshift camps have sprung up since the floods hit Sukkar and the outlying areas, looking for these supportive ladies was like searching for a needle in a haystack. “I have a plan,” said Nizam, and being one for adventure, the mere whiff of a plan was enough for me to say, “Let’s go!”

The van was enthusiastically driven by Alam, who was channeling Schumacher and prepared to put the beaten Suzuki through its paces. We passed over roads of sand, around half built mud brick houses, splashed through filthy puddles, cornering swiftly to avoid a herd of water buffalos and then powering through a valley of trash. Piled high on both sides of the road was a testament to plastic bottles and bags - as well as rotting carcasses - that had migrated across the stagnant ponds whose odor burned our nostrils.

Finally we emerged from the car at a large makeshift in a place Nizam calls the “Microwave Tower Camp,” in old Sukkar. Nizam was immediately greeted by the swarms of children who flocked around our transport. With a gentle and almost grandfatherly manner, he lead us through a small door and into a courtyard opposite the camp, which was filled with women, children and young men taking shade under flapping cloths from the intense midday sun.

“These people are my family, my brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews - they are also flood affected people,” says Nizam. “I was in Sukkar and I heard that the floods were heading towards my village, so I called my brothers and at the last minute they managed to pack some luggage and escape on trucks. Their village of Rarhi has been completely swamped, houses destroyed, crops damaged, but at least they were able to save their families and animals,” he adds.

Once his extended family arrived in Sukkar, Nizam set about finding the weary travelers some land upon which to camp. However, it was clear that even though these people had the benefit of being forewarned and had bough some provisions, they would need many more supplies - including tarpaulins, cooking utensils and food and water. From his own pocket, Nizam purchased these supplies, met with local government officials to have land allocated and mobilized his small team from Hands to organize the planning of the campsite. More and more flood affected people heard about Nizam’s generousity and began arriving at the camp.

Within days, the Hands team had set up a small camp to accommodate over 300 people who had fled the floods in Nizam’s village of Rarhi. Forty seven children have been allocated a space for learning and for recreation. Education is highly valued amongst the families in the “Microwave Tower” camp, although one of the small boys tells me that his preference is still for playing games and cricket, which causes laughter to erupt from the adults and children gathered around.



  Local Lady Health Worker, Reshman, herself flood affected, works with more than 300 displaced people in the makeshift camp. Trained and supported by UNICEF, Lady Health Workers carry out household hygiene education, particularly focussing on safe personal hygiene practices and basic immunization.

Nizam introduces me to the local Lady Health Worker, Reshman, who has come to the camp with her seven children. Widowed four years ago, she has been working in the UNICEF supported Lady Health Workers programme since this time, visiting families and communities in her district. Since she lost her house in the floods recently, she has dedicated her days to moving around the camp and teaching sessions on hygiene awareness.

Reshman tells us that many of the children in the camp have skin diseases, eye infections and diarrhoea. The key to stopping the spread of disease, she continues, is making sure that mothers and children do the basic: wash their hands with soap before eating and after defecating; and ensuring that children (and their clothes) are washed regularly.

“Look at this boy,” Reshman laughs as she grabs her son Mousa by his shoulder. “He hasn’t washed all week. He doesn’t listen to his mother at all!” She explains how all children in the camp would love to have new clothes for the Eid festival (that signals the end of the month
of Ramadan), due to start at the end of the week; however, sadly enough, this year it will not be possible.

Nizam and I walked back to the Suzuki and contemplated the makeshift camp before us. Young boys were swimming in the pond at the foot of the camp, some of them riding on the backs of the water buffalos who were also taking refuge in the cool waters. Beside me stands a man who has truly shown a humanitarian spirit. A man who from his own pockets, dug deep and lent a hand to his fellow villagers, encapsulating the name of the NGO he works for. He is happy to see Pakistani people literally lending a hand to their own.

**UNICEF provides financial and technical support to Hands in primary health care and maternal health care services through mobile teams working with IDPs in camps. UNICEF has also provided IEC (Information Education and Communication) materials to assist the mobile teams in both of these programmes.


Sukkar, Sindh province
September 4, 2010
By Tania McBride

I arrived last night in Sukkar, in the Sindh province, with a “Ladies and Gentlemen…in’shallah… we will land” tune only to immediately step onto the tarmac - into the searing furnace of heat and a mere 37 degrees at 8.30pm, causing sweat to drip down my back and face and pool into my neck.

Sindh has very badly hit by the recent flooding, with more than 2.5 million people in the last two weeks displaced from their homes and villages. A recent text message received today informed that another 400,000 people have been displaced over the last 24 hours. Tent camps line the route from the airport, and snapshots of lives flicker in the highlights of the car. People lying on mats by the road, children crying, the elderly woman fanning herself on a bed in the open air and the steamy night.

In the cold hard light of day, these images are even more disturbing. The scale of the disaster seen from the air simply outweighs the capacity on the ground to meet all of the needs.



© UNICEF/Pakistan/McBride
One-year-old Farzana and her mother in Sukkar, Pakistan.

Our mission this morning in the camp was to gather photographs for communications materials, more especifically hygiene promotion posters and leaflets. UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygeine specialist Roberto Saltori says that targeting the population with four simple and yet critical key messages is going to be essential for the survival of children who have already fled the floods and are now facing serious risk of diseases. In this humid, hot environment where stagnant waters are fast becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes and malaria, this is a critical move to educate the population.

Exclusive breast feeding, drinking clean water, washing your hands and covering faeces after defecation are the key messages UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene specialists in Sukkar have identified, and will use in the training of health promoters who will work with affected communities in the coming days.

The camp is home to approximately 200 internally displaced people, many of these children. UNICEF is already providing clean water supplies and a tankering truck was due to come and fill the 10,000 litre bladder for drinking use.

Upon our arrival, the children came running curious to see who we are and what we are doing. The tents flap slightly with the hot breeze, revealing their inhabitants; sometimes a bed, a mat with children sitting playing games, and other meager belongings gathered in haste. Women cook potatoes and chapattis over an open fire, seemingly oblivious to the flies, extreme heat and dusty conditions.



  © UNICEF/Pakistan/McBride
  Two girls in the Makeshift camp demonstrated the correct ways to wash your hands - a simple, but effective way of mitigating the spread of illness in camps.

With Laikat, (our interlocutor from local NGO partner “Youth Action”) and a little cross cultural encouragement, their shyness quickly turned into enthusiasm and a bevy of aspiring actors and actresses lined up to demonstrate the benefits of clean drinking water and the need to wash your hands. Tailoring these IEC (Information, Education and Communication) materials is important for situating the messages within Pakistan. By having children from Pakistan as examples, they ensure that our messages link to the culture of the children and families we are working with, in order to kick start social mobilization around hygiene promotion.

Laikat takes advantage of the children gathered in the temporary learning centre to provide an impromptu lesson on hand washing and using the toilets. Even though the children enthusiastically answer, we know that these messages will need to be continuously reinforced, especially as many of the displaced people move through the “feces field” to tend their cattle and wash their clothes near a local contaminated canal.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for UNICEF to try and stop the spread of disease is the practice of open defecation. It’s estimated that the majority of the population in the camps engages in open defecation. While latrines have been set up in many of them, some children and adults still go to the toilet near to area where they are cooking, eating and living. These messages and training hygiene promotion sessions are vital to combat diseases and ensure that each child has the best possible chance of remaining healthy.



© UNICEF/Pakistan/McBride
A group of newly displaced children and women camp by the roadide waiting for assistance.

In disaster situations, it’s the children who suffer the most. In Sukkar, this reality is obvious to the eyes. It was striking today that not only was stress etched on their small faces but also on their bodies. An outbreak of skin diseases amongst the children - coupled with rashes caused by the conditions - was evident. Little Farzana had just been bathed by her mother. Her back was pockmarked with skin sores which had been treated by the UNICEF supported mobile health clinics, but at one year of age it was evident that she was also severely malnourished. Farzana’s mother, weary also with the extreme heat, fatigue and poor conditions, struggled to breast feed her and eventually gave up as small Farzana writhed and cried.

Surprisingly, these are the lucky ones. Those on the roadside have nothing. We stopped to talk to a group of newly displaced people, sheltering under their beds, some with nothing, just some small shade clothes. They are desperate. Children, elderly women and families - some who have come by foot - ventured 120km from Kandhkod to Sukkar only to find that there is no room, food or water at the camp.

Looking across to one of the temporary shelters, I catch the eye of a young adolescent girl. Her message is clear….we need help.

To help UNICEF deliver life-saving supplies, please donate to our Pakistan Flood Relief fund.


Punjab, Pakistan
September 3, 2010
By Patrick McCormick, UNICEF Communication Specialist

UNICEF Communication Specialist Patrick McCormick recently toured relief camps in the flood-devastated Punjab province of Pakistan. Below is his firsthand account.

I accompanied UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake on his recent visit to flood-affected areas of Pakistan.

Mr. Lake was in the country to listen and talk to families, and in particular children, who were displaced by flooding. One of his goals was to reassure them that UNICEF is doing its utmost to help them through this crisis and beyond.

As the floodwaters slowly receded, the devastation of crops, livestock, houses and critical infrastructure became all too clear. It will take years to repair and rebuild everything that was lost.

Makeshift relief centre



© UNICEF video
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake speaks to children at a girls' school turned relief camp in Gujrat, Pakistan.

We visited a girl’s secondary school in Punjab province. The school has been turned into a relief centre for hundreds of families fleeing the flooding. Here in southern Pakistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces were hit especially hard.

Arriving by helicopter from Islamabad to the small town of Gujrat, I gazed out over miles and miles of flooded land, pockmarked with the tops of trees and houses. An eerie silence hung over the land: the absence of people was palpable. The waters had swallowed up the usual human activity one would expect to see on roads, in fields and in the courtyards of houses.

We entered the school, which was incredibly hot – a heavy, searing heat. There were hundreds of flies and a smell I recognized from relief centres like this all over the world. It was the musty smell of decay, of dirt, of disease.

The state of families in the camp varied: some lay listlessly on the floor, among them severely malnourished babies. Others, especially children, seemed cheerful enough and excited about UNICEF’s visit and additional supplies.

‘We are here to help’



  UNICEF Image
  © UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1684/Ramoneda
  Much of Muzaffargarh district, in Pakistan's Punjab province, remains submerged in floodwater.

We visited a ‘child-friendly space’ – a safe place for displaced children to learn and play – located in a former classroom. The Executive Director connected quickly with the children, sitting down with them to examine heart-breaking drawings of what had happened to them in recent weeks.

Many of the drawings showed dolls and flowers and sometimes a house – memories of lost lives. These children are so young, but they already understand so much.

The children were shy at first, but gradually warmed to Mr. Lake, who had a light and playful touch. They responded, laughing with him and listening to his words of encouragement. His message is clear: we are here to help you get through this, and we will not leave until that happens.

Hope out of despair

After visiting several more school rooms full of families, each of whom were receiving various types of care and assistance, we left. We had done as much as we could here, leaving aid workers on the ground to get on with the job.

I have visited many places like these. I remember places I saw 10 years ago – faces, images of joy and pain. Children squatting alone, sad and silent; raucous games of football with a makeshift ball, and that atmosphere of despair and optimism at the same time. 

As there was in those places, there is hope in Pakistan that a better life lies ahead. I have to believe that it does.

To help UNICEF deliver life-saving supplies, please donate to our Pakistan Flood Relief fund. 


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 
August 23, 2010
By Dr. Arshad Durani, UNICEF Pakistan


Field diary: In Pakistan, a doctor fights back flood waters to save his family

Dr. Arshad Durani is an immunization specialist working for UNICEF in northern Pakistan. Despite the destruction of his own home, Dr. Durani continues to lead immunization efforts in flood-ravaged Charsaddah district. He recently filed this first-hand report.


© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Zak
Dr. Arshad Durani, a physician in Pakistan's Charsaddah district, shows the high water marks left on his flood-ravaged home.

“Wake up and help me get the children!” my wife was screaming. “We have to leave the house immediately.”

I woke with a start and looked out the window. There was water everywhere. People were carrying young children over their shoulders to keep them out of the raging flood waters. My wife and I grabbed our three children and ran outside.

Raging flood waters

We joined a huge crowd rushing to board a military rescue helicopter, but there were simply too many people to save everyone. We had to prioritize – so women, children and the elderly filed into the helicopter with nothing but the clothes on their backs. There was no room to carry anything on board.

The moment the waters receded, I contacted UNICEF and began to report the needs of the children in the community. I then received medicine from the World Health Organization and began providing free medical services to anyone in need.



© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Zak
Dr. Arshad Durani vaccinates a child against diseases that are common after major emergencies.

My wife and children returned a few days ago and are now sifting through the wreckage of our home, trying to make at least part of it liveable again. Not all was lost. My children were thrilled to find our two pet parrots alive and well.

Disease ‘a big concern’

I am relieved to be back at work, now leading UNICEF’s vaccination campaign in Charsaddah. We are working to prevent the spread of disease – a very big concern after such a catastrophe.

UNICEF is also taking the lead in providing clean water, sanitation and nutritional support to millions of flood-affected families in northern Pakistan.

The deluge was mighty enough to destroy bridges, schools, roads and thousands of homes. But it couldn’t – and will never – bend my determination to improve the lives of children.

To help UNICEF deliver life-saving supplies, please donate to our Pakistan Flood Relief fund.



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 
15-19 August, 2010
By Daniel Toole, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia 

This week Daniel Toole has been visiting the provinces worst-affected by flooding in Pakistan. Here are his latest updates on the relief effort.


© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Dsouza
UNICEF Regional Director Dan Toole (right) visits with victims of Pakistan's unprecedented flooding.

Day one

First full day of briefings in Islamabad. The scale of the disaster is unbelievable – and somehow still not understood outside Pakistan. It is a ‘slow-evolving, rapid on-set emergency.’ 

The floods span the country unlike anything in decades.

Participated in United Nations Secretary-General de-briefing in the evening. He was visibly shocked and said so – the scope of the destruction is massive. 

Day two

Travelled early this morning to Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province – flooding along the expressway and crops are submerged. Charsaddah and Nowshera districts have massive destruction. Mud is everywhere, thousands of people are sleeping in makeshift tents on the median of the road – there is little food and water.


© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Dsouza
A young boy sits in a school tent in Sindh province, Pakistan, where some 180 displaced children are beginning classes despite the emergency raging around them.

UNICEF warehouse there was completely underwater – $1.2 in emergency supplies lost!  Spoke to an older women who has lost everything except what she could carry. Few have been killed despite fast arriving water, but destruction is massive.

Day three

Attended United Nations team meeting to discuss overall scope of the disaster.

Initial appeal for help was based on an estimate of just over 3 million people in urgent need. It is now clear that this figure is way off – many more need help. Government of Pakistan now estimates that 20 million are affected, and that an area the size of Switzerland, Austria and Belgium combined is under water.

Size of flood-affected area is growing daily, and more rains are due.

Day four

Arrived in Muzaffargarh district in southern Punjab province. Again the heat and flies are everywhere – can I possibly live as these people are, and must?



© UNICEF Pakistan/2010/Dsouza
Students and teachers in a makeshift school tent in Sindh province, Pakistan.

Road was completely flooded on the way here, but we got through. Trucks are backed up waiting. Our driver says the water level has gone down in recent days. The road is eroding – we hope it holds until the water recedes.

Spoke to a woman with five children who has lost everything. There are thousands – hundreds of thousands – like her. She fled the floods with her children, carrying no food, and only the clothes she was wearing. She has diarrhoea and all her children are ill despite now being at a safe camp where cooked food is provided. Her ‘tent’ is covered on only two sides, so when it rains the family huddles together to stay dry.

Water supply is good in the camp and there seems to be enough food, but conditions in all camps aren’t like this. These families are lucky.

Also visited a UNICEF ‘child-friendly space’ with games, toys and several caring adults to give children a welcome break from the grim reality and trauma of fleeing their homes.

UNICEF is responding quickly – nearly all staff from the Lahore office are here, plus many others. All are working to ensure clean water, and sanitation and good nutrition. We are working with [the World Health Organization] and others to provide health services like immunizations, oral rehydration solutions for diarrhoea and basic drugs, and to ensure – as much as possible – protection for children.

Day five

Arrived in Sindh Province – in Sukkur city, nearly 4 million are displaced. Almost 2 million acres are covered in water!  Took a helicopter flight over the area – there is water as far as we can see. Towns are flooded; electrical poles stand in deep, fast-flowing water. Water continues to flow onwards, threatening new areas – every hour, every day.

Attended briefing with the province governor. Expert views of the situation were provided by staff of Sukkur Barrage office. The barrage, or dam, is one of largest in the world. It must hold or all irrigation works will be destroyed and decades of progress lost.

Visited a camp for displaced people and sweat streamed down my face, back and body. It is so hot, and many (most) people are fasting for Ramadan – they don’t even take water. How do they manage?

One moment of hope – school has started in one camp and about 180 children are sitting and learning on the first day. The class includes many small girls who are in school for the first time!

Took ‘iftar’ – the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during Ramadan – with the Chief Minister. Discussed the many people working on the relief effort – government, army, UN and local partners. Support of Pakistani people is incredible, and yet all of this must expand.

Will the international community move fast enough? We need to help urgently.

To help UNICEF deliver life-saving supplies, please donate to our Pakistan Flood Relief fund.




Sukkur, Pakistan 
August 8, 2010
By Raabya Amjad

Communities Displaced due to Floods in Sindh Reach out for Shelter



Noor Jehan, with others from her village, doesn’t know what struck her as she waits patiently to receive news about her husband and brother-in-law who remained behind in their villages to guard their animals and belongings.

Tired and expressionless faces searching for answers to their misery gathered in the premises of the Government Comprehensive Higher Secondary School, turned into a relief camp for people displaced due to high floods in Sukkur.

Carrying her 15 month old son in her arms, Noor Jehan of village Unar Goth, district Shikarpur was as lost as many others from her community. Still in a state of shock and fatigue, she recalls her evacuation from her ancestral village. “I was tending the goats in the compound when my brother-in-law hurriedly came in and informed us that we had to vacate our house immediately as river will flood our village by nightfall. It was chaotic, I don’t know how we loaded our meagre belongings on to the donkey cart, got onto it ourselves and set out on the road to Sukkur,” says Noor Jehan.

With tears in her eyes, Noor Jehan narrates her plight. “My husband and his brother stayed behind to safeguard our goats and the cow, our only source of income. For us, it was an agonising journey. We did not know our destination and were worried sick about our men that we left behind. After travelling for a day and a night, we have reached here but are uncertain of what will happen next."

Twenty five families comprising mostly of women and children from village Unar Goth were not the only ones in this temporary camp for the displaced. In all, about 490 people had taken refuge in the camp and many more are expected to arrive any time.

Officials of the Municipal Administration had set up a medical camp in the school building where UNICEF is supporting the Health Department to revive services of the Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI). A vaccinator was busy vaccinating children under the age of 15 years for measles and providing Vitamin A supplementation.



Displaced communities await relief supplies after moving to safer areas though their entire belongings have been lost.

As the city of Sukkur is located on the banks of river Indus, which takes in flood waters from the north before falling into the Arabian Sea, the situation of floods in the entire district is precarious. Water level is constantly rising and the entire area has been placed under red alert.

Around 36,000 people in district Sukkur have been affected by the floods while nearly 29,000 people have been evacuated from the low lying areas. Most of the displaced are not aware of the 29 relief camps established by the government in this area. They are waiting for help out in the open without the basic amenities such as safe drinking water, food, shelter, sanitation and hygiene services. These communities are vulnerable to water-borne diseases, incidence of violence and abuse.

Nearly six hundred villages in the province of Sindh have been inundated and the situation is expected to get worse as rains continue in the northern part of the country and water level in the South continues to rise.

Local authorities are constantly watching the rising level of water and if it crosses the highest level of water intake, they may have to deliberately breach the Sukkur barrage to save the city but that would inundate numerous villages in the Union Councils (administrative area) of Sangrar, Salihpat and Ali Wahan. A Large number of people have already vacated the villages in these Union Councils.

As the water level continues to rise, around 108 villages in the low lying areas have already submerged and around the same number have been affected.

To help UNICEF deliver life-saving supplies, please donate to our Pakistan Flood Relief fund.



Khyber Pukhtoonkhawa, Pakistan
August 3, 2010
By Dr. Rafiq, UNICEF Pakistan

The recent floods in Pakistan have been the worst I have ever seen in my 53 years. When I was young we heard from our elders that there were great floods in 1929, but we currently think that these are twice as bad. Nobody has any memory of a worse disaster.


For children this was truly terrifying. They were grabbed out of their beds by parents in the middle of the night and had to run to safe ground as water poured into their houses. The only warning they had was from local Mosques telling them to leave. They ran without their shoes and without their belongings.

I met a father and son who had to flee their home when the flood waters arrived. A few days later they returned to find their house completely destroyed. When I met them, they were desperately trying to find any of their belongings in the mud. This was devastating to see.

Children are the most vulnerable people affected by this flood. They also face a great threat from hunger and diseases like cholera and scabies.

There is no mobile phone reception anymore so I go on the local radio twice a day to tell people about how to protect themselves from disease. I tell them that if they have a water tank on the third floor or higher they should treat this as the most precious thing in the world and only drink it. If people do not have this then they can collect rainwater. If they have to drink floodwater they should us pure sachets, water purifying tablets if possible. As a last resort they can filter the water from a clean cloth two to three times and then put in sun light for a couple of hours. This is really for when all other options are exhausted.

Our biggest concern, though, is the places we have not been able to reach yet. Roads have been destroyed and bridges washed away, which makes our work even more difficult. We have not seen an epidemic of any disease yet, but God forbid that there is one somewhere we have not been able to reach yet.

Since the flood, food prices have already begun to rise and we know it is important to get food to people who need it. UNICEF already had high-nutrition biscuits in Pakistan and we have already distributed these to 4,000 children.

I worry about the future for the 1.4 million children affected by this flood. Once the waters subside and people find shelter, there will still be no schools and many, many children will face losing their education. We will feel the effects of this disaster for years to come.

To help UNICEF deliver life-saving supplies, please donate to our Pakistan Flood Relief fund.



Haiti Earthquake

UNICEF Canada's Chris Tidey was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to report on UNICEF relief efforts for children and families.  Read his blog below.

Toronto, Canada
February 19, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada

Reflecting on my time in Haiti

The one month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti has now come and gone, and so too has my time in that country. Since my return to Canada, I have been in a state of near constant reflection on what I saw there, the people I spoke with and how the relief efforts will continue to unfold.

Upon my January 26 arrival in Port-au-Prince, I was immediately struck by the scale of the disaster.  It seemed as though every second or third building had collapsed into a heap of debris. It is estimated that 20 million metric tons of rubble must be cleared from the city and surrounding areas.

Walking the streets over the ensuing days was like floating through a strange dreamland where I could almost feel the city’s past haunting each and every destroyed home, shop, school and government building. With every breath, I could taste the dust of what once was.

Much of the physical history of places like Port-au-Prince, Leogane and Jacmel is now destroyed. But the people, Haiti’s living history, are still very much alive and living each day as best they can despite the enormity of their loss.

The January 12 earthquake affected approximately 3 million people, leaving over 1 million homeless. In virtually every neighborhood of Port-au-Prince and other affected areas, I saw these people – living in sprawling temporary settlements under makeshift tents; looking for work on the streets to support their families; and digging through the rubble of their former homes.

I visited many of the temporary settlements where newly homeless children and families are now staying. More than 15,000 people are living in downtown Port-au-Prince at the Champ de Mars camp alone. To describe the living conditions in the settlements as difficult would be an understatement. Families are sleeping crammed together under shelters made of bed sheets and scrap metal. During the day, there is little reprieve from the heat, and at night, there is no electricity to light the darkness. The overcrowded conditions mean there is little to no privacy and the spread of opportunistic diseases is a very real threat.  

And then there are the children. With roughly 40 percent of Haiti’s population under 15, this disaster has impacted children disproportionately. Many children in the earthquake affected areas have lost any combination of their homes, parents, siblings, schools, teachers and friends.

I met 11-year-old Bergeline at a UNICEF-supported orphanage in Port-au-Prince. Her entire family, including both parents and all four of her siblings, was killed when their house collapsed during the earthquake. I also met seven-year-old Jean Pierre. I found the young boy on the side of a dirt road in Port-au-Prince selling cigarettes for money to help his homeless family. There are now thousands of Bergelines and Jean Pierres, each with their own heartbreaking story, living in Haiti.       

I wonder what will become of them – what will become of their country. There is no obvious answer, but I did see progress amidst the destruction and despair. That progress has given me reason to believe that a bright future is possible for Haiti’s children.

When I arrived in Port-au-Prince, UNICEF and its partners were distributing clean water to about 300,000 people per day. Within a few days, I saw that number climb to more than 550,000 people per day. As of yesterday, clean water was reaching a daily average of 850,000 people across 300 sites in Port-au-Prince, Leogane and Jacmel. That is progress. Safe drinking water is essential for the survival of children and families and for preventing the spread of waterborne illnesses to which children are particularly vulnerable.

I also saw UNICEF and its partners respond quickly to the emerging threat of childhood diseases in the teeming settlements by launching a massive immunization campaign that will reach approximately 500,000 children in the coming weeks. During my second week in Haiti, I saw children being vaccinated against diseases like measles, rubella, diphtheria and tetanus at each and every settlement I visited. That is progress.

By my third week, in settlements where I had not previously seen any evidence of humanitarian relief, I followed UNICEF teams conducting nutritional assessments of children and mothers. I watched as they provided young mothers in the camps with nutritional counseling, high energy biscuits and blanket supplementary feeding for their children. That is progress. 

I saw community leaders being trained to identify and register unaccompanied children so that they will be kept healthy and safe while UNICEF and its partners work to reunify them with their families. I saw UNICEF building latrines and hand-washing stations in settlements. I worked with a mission high atop a mountain outside Port-au-Prince that was preparing to reopen its school and medical clinic with the help of UNICEF educational and medical supplies. That is all progress.

In the face of such a devastating disaster, these signs of progress might not seem like much. Compared to the scale of the destruction and preexisting poverty, they may even seem insignificant and inconsequential. But they are not.

Progress in Haiti will unfold and be measured in small steps – another family with access to a dependable source of safe drinking water; a school reopened; a single child vaccinated against measles. These small steps are incredibly important because each is a building block in the country’s transformation into something greater than it was before. Each step is built on the one before it.

Since returning to Canada, I haven’t been able to shake this feeling that I left a part of myself in Haiti. Images of the children and families I met there flash daily before my eyes. I wonder about them and I worry. It is because of them that I too feel invested in the country’s future.     



Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
February 14, 2010
By Chris Tidey,



© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Friends stick together at Champ de Mars settlement in Port-au-Prince.

After two days of travel, including a night in the Dominican Republic, I have finally returned to Canada from Haiti.

As the plane touched down late last night in Toronto, I wished that I had not left Port-au-Prince. I wished that I could have stayed to see the country change, rebuild and transform a little more with each passing day. 

Over the past three weeks, I have been given a window into Haiti’s pain – that caused by the earthquake and that which stems from decades of economic hardship.

But I have also caught glimpses of what Haiti can become. I have seen its path to transformation through the strength and character of its people, the courage of its families, and the joy of its children.   

I hope that people around the world will continue to follow the relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti. Soon, Haiti will no longer be making headline news, but the needs of its vulnerable children and families will persist for days, months and even years to come.



Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
February 11, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada




© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Brother and sister wait outside tent during UNICEF nutritional assessment at temporary settlement.

This morning I woke at 4 AM – my last day in Haiti – as rain pounded the top of my tent and water pooled around my sleeping bag. Needless to say, I was very unhappy.

I spent the next 10 minutes scrambling to get the camera equipment out of the water while cursing the weather and my luck.

As the early morning cobwebs cleared, I thought of something far less trivial than wet camera equipment and soggy clothes. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians, left homeless after the earthquake, were enduring this very same deluge without even the luxury of a proper tent. And with the rainy season fast approaching, this was just the first storm of many more to come.

Each new day in Haiti brings a fresh set of challenges for the ongoing relief and reconstruction effort. It is my sincere hope that these challenges do not weaken the resolve of the international community to help Haitians pursue the transformation of their country. 


Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
February 9, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada




© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Young father cares for his infant daughter at Champ de Mars settlement. Both were left homeless after the January 12 earthquake.

As my time in Haiti winds down, I am increasingly thinking about what will happen here in the coming weeks and months.

The one month anniversary of the earthquake is nearly upon us and so much has already happened since then. Aid is flowing and communities are starting to rebuild, albeit very slowly.

I think the destruction I have seen in Port-au-Prince both in terms of lives lost and collapsed homes will live with me forever. I find myself wondering constantly what Haiti had been before the earthquake. What did that hotel, restaurant, or home look like when it was still standing? What was life like for the people living in the settlements before the disaster left them homeless? 

Rarely have I heard Haitians talk about life before January 12. Conversations with the people who have suffered most from this disaster invariably turn to the future. People don’t want to talk about what was, but about what will be. People are not interested in their collapsed homes, but in the lives of their children and their chances for a happy life.

This is a collective strength of character I have never seen before and I am awed by it each and every day that I have been here. 



Port-au-Prince, Haiti
February 8, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada

© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
The Fraternité Notre Dame schoolhouse damaged beyond repair in the January 12 earthquake.
This afternoon, our team made the two hour journey to Aux Cadets, a small community high up in the mountains outside of Port-au-Prince. Our destination was a mission of the Fraternité Notre Dame that has been providing medical care and treatment to the people of the surrounding villages free of charge since the earthquake.

Even the mission, high atop the mountains, had not been spared the affects of the disaster. Its school house and modest residence were destroyed, along with the medical dispensary. 

Sisters Marie Benedicte and Marie Christine explained to me that many of the people who live in the area are very poor and cannot afford to pay for medical care. As a result, children and families have been living with untreated illnesses and injuries for weeks, months and even years.

The sisters told me a story about a seven-year-old boy who had broken his femur when the roof of his home collapsed during the earthquake. Because his family did not have any money, he did not receive medical treatment. It was not until his family heard about the free treatment at the mission that the boy was seen by a medical professional – that was three weeks later.

Sisters Marie Benedicte and Marie Christine informed our team today about the supplies they need to continue their lifesaving work. UNICEF will be providing them with a new shipment of materials later this week to ensure they can continue giving essential care to the people here.

It was an amazing day.




Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
February 6, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada


© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Boy flies his homemade kite at the Champ de Mars settlement in Port-au-Prince.

I visited the sprawling settlement at Champ de Mars today – an area now home to some 15,000 people living in makeshift shelters of plywood, scrap metal and bed sheets.  I went there to see several of UNICEF’s ongoing relief initiatives including bladder tanks and tap stands for clean water and nutrition services for mothers and infants.

While investigating various camera angles at one of the sites, something caught my eye a short distance away. It was floating a few meters above the roofs of the settlement and looked like a piece of debris suspended in midair.

I moved closer to get a better view and saw a thin line of string trailing from the bottom of the object and into the hands of a young boy standing on the ground below. The mystery object was a kite.

I moved closer yet and could see that the kite had been fashioned from sticks and plastic cut from a trash bag. What a marvel it was!

Here was this child who, in the midst of death and despair, had found the materials he needed from the garbage and rubble in the city around him to build something entirely new – something entirely uplifting and joyful.

It was truly amazing to see and I hope a sign of good things to come for Haiti.


Port-au-Prince, Haiti
February 5, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada

© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
A child’s workbook lies atop the rubble.
Our team set out today to speak with a group of community leaders being trained by UNICEF and its partners on how to identify and register unaccompanied children.

On the drive back through the city to the MINUSTAH base, we stopped in front of a collapsed elementary school. We climbed atop the rubble to learn more about the school and to shoot some photographs of the scene before us.

I will never forget what I saw.

Scattered amidst the debris were children’s workbooks, each filled with a child’s handwriting. 
© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
History of Haiti textbook found within the debris of the collapsed elementary school.
We opened up one book to find a girl’s name neatly penned on the inside cover – ‘Frandia.’ I found myself wondering who she was, how old and whether she was still alive.

I hope that Frandia lived through the earthquake, but I will likely never know this.

Whatever her fate may have been, seeing her name written in her own handwriting was a powerful reminder of the vulnerability of children during disasters and that many children here are still at risk nearly a month after the earthquake. 






Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
February 4, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada


© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Boy stands in front of makeshift shelters at Quiosque Oxide Jeanty settlement on the Champs de Mars, Port-au-Prince.

I have been in Haiti for more than a week now and I feel so fortunate to be here. More than anything else, I am fortunate to have witnessed and been inspired by the courage and resolve of the Haitian people in the face of such a crippling disaster.

This afternoon, I visited a temporary settlement at the Quiosque Oxide Jeanty on the Champs de Mars in the heart of Port-au-Prince. I went to speak with the families living there and to take shots for a photo essay on the reality of life in the settlements since the earthquake.

Living conditions at the Quiosque were undeniably dire. I saw children no more than 10 years of age constructing a makeshift shelter out of rotten wood and scrap metal. I saw a young father trying desperately to comfort his infant daughter wailing in the scorching heat. I saw people sleeping on the concrete square, covered only by a tarp strung haphazardly between sticks. 

As I moved through the settlement, I was joined by a group of teenagers who engaged me in a lively conversation about the future of their country. One boy announced to the others that he was trying to leave Haiti to come to Canada where some of his relatives live. He said there was nothing left for him here, that Haiti was beyond saving.

The other kids responded by defending their country with ferocity. These young people had virtually nothing – no home, no job, no money. Several of them lost family members in the earthquake. Yet there they were fighting for the future of their country and proclaiming a commitment to rebuilding Haiti despite the daunting challenges that lie ahead.

It was a very poignant moment and I hope a harbinger of good things to come.



Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
February 3, 2010
By UNICEF Canada




© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Mother and child wait for medical care outside temporary settlement in Port-au-Prince.

There are no simple solutions in Haiti since the January 12 earthquake – only complex solutions to complex problems. The complexity stems from the multifaceted and diverse needs of the millions of people who have been affected by this disaster.

I saw this reality firsthand today while visiting an emergency field hospital in Port-au-Prince where I met a young woman who had given birth there the day before. The dedicated physicians of the IMANA relief hospital had given this woman and her newborn daughter excellent neonatal care. UNICEF had provided an obstetric gynecologic medical kit to ensure the doctors had the supplies they needed to keep mother and child healthy. 

But within a day or so, the IMANA doctors will be obliged to discharge the woman and her baby knowing that at this point, they have nowhere to go. Sadly, the earthquake left her homeless and she has been living on the streets of Port-au-Prince since that day. The doctors are naturally concerned about the health of this woman and her baby should they wind up in one of the overcrowded temporary settlements around the city.


That is the nature of the situation facing so many people in Haiti today. Healthcare, shelter, clean water, food, income, child protection, nutrition, psychosocial counseling – all of these are needed in various combinations for the children and families caught up in this disaster.

That is why it is essential for the humanitarian organizations on the ground here to continue working together so that all of these complex needs are met.  



Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
February 2, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada




© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Fifteen-year-old boy receives vaccination at Le Stad Silvio Cator stadium in Port-au-Prince.

It looks as though I will be staying and reporting from Port-au-Prince for a while yet. This is good news because there are so many stories here to tell.

UNICEF’s child immunization campaign kicked off today with the goal of immunizing 500,000 children against measles, diphtheria, tetanus, rubella and pertussis. This will prevent the spread the spread of life-threatening childhood diseases – a major concern for children living in the crowded temporary settlements.

I visited Le Stad Silvio Cator, a soccer stadium, earlier today to see the immunization campaign in full swing. Thousands of children and families were vaccinated throughout the day which is a very welcome development.

The stadium itself is also being used as a temporary settlement with most of the soccer pitch covered in makeshift tents and shelters. The juxtaposition between the immunization campaign at one end of the field and the very difficult living conditions of the camp at the other served as a stark reminder that there is much work yet to be done.


Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
February 1, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada




© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
UNICEF classroom

After a relatively quiet Sunday, the MINUSTAH base in Port-au-Prince was buzzing again today with frenzied yet organized activity as aid distribution continued to ramp up in Haiti.

The big news for UNICEF is that we are launching a massive immunization campaign for children against measles, diphtheria and tetanus.
UNICEF and its partners will be conducting emergency vaccinations in all of the temporary settlements. This will reach about 200,000 children.

The second phase of the immunization campaign will include vaccinations for all children seven years of age and under in the earthquake-affected areas. This will bring the total number of children vaccinated to 500,000.   

Immunization is essential for preventing the spread of life-threatening diseases that pose a real threat to children living in emergency zones. 

We are all looking forward to the launch of this life-saving campaign. 



Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
January 31, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada




© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Signs in front of main road leading to small community outside Leogane.

Our UNICEF team visited Leogane today – a beachside town outside of Port-au-Prince.

Unfortunately for the people living there, their town has endured much the same as the capitol. Leogane’s historic downtown is in ruins, its beautiful facades in the main square destroyed. Many homes here have collapsed and as in Port-au-Prince, thousands of homeless families are living under makeshift shelters in temporary settlements.

Aid is arriving in Leogane. The people there are receiving clean water, emergency supplies and tents from a number of different humanitarian organizations.

Later in the afternoon, we visited a much smaller community only a few miles away. A group of boys called us into the main road between the few houses still standing to talk with their families.



© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Boys speak with UNICEF team about their community’s needs.

The people told us that they were still without clean water, food was scarce and the children were starting to go hungry. All we could do was write down their information and say we would do our best to help. I hoped those weren’t empty words.

When we arrived back at the MINUSTAH base and passed on the information, the rest of the UNICEF team sprang into action – preparing a deployment of food and water to the small community the very next day.

With so much public commentary about the slow pace of aid distribution in Haiti after the earthquake, it was amazing to witness the team’s resolve and rapid execution to reach children and families in need.



Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
January 30, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada




© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Evelyne plays soccer at the Foyer L’escale Orphanage.

Today was my fifth day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and it was a great day, a wonderful day. 

Early this morning, our team accompanied a UNICEF shipment of clean drinking water en route to a local orphanage. Upon reaching the Foyer L’escale Orphanage, I had expected to see a group of children saddened by their difficult circumstances and fearful of what the future might bring. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Our team was greeted by 57 happy children – happy because this orphanage was obviously a place filled with warmth and hope. UNICEF has been working with Foyer L’escale to provide everything the children need to ensure their wellbeing, from shelter to school supplies to nutrition. 

At the orphanage, I made fast friends with an eleven-year-old girl named Evelyne. After kicking around the soccer ball for a few minutes, we talked about school and what she wanted for the future.

Evelyne told me that she wants to be a doctor so that she can take care of people. I was not surprised by her answer at all. With all the love, support and education Evelyne is receiving from UNICEF and the Foyer L’escale staff, she can be anything she wants.



Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
January 29, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada


© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
UN Flag at MINUSTAH base
 flies at half mast.

Before leaving the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) base this morning to visit a field hospital in Port-au-Prince, I visited a memorial that had been set up on the grounds in honor of United Nations staff members who lost their lives in the January 12 earthquake.

Amidst the devastation in Haiti, I had nearly forgotten that UN staff stationed in the country had also suffered greatly. At least 84 UN staff members across several agencies and from dozens of countries around the world are confirmed to have died in the disaster.

As I stood there, many of their faces stared back at me from photos posted on the memorial wall. I was deeply moved.

Later in the day, I spoke with a child protection specialist who works closely with UNICEF. While she survived the earthquake, many of her colleagues and friends did not.  I asked her how she could continue working for the relief in the face of such terrible loss.

She told me that the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Haitian children was still at risk, and that it was her duty and the duty of organizations like UNICEF to secure their health and safety no matter what the obstacle.

As long as the lives of children hang in the balance, the grieving process will be postponed. 



Port-au-Prince, Haiti 
January 28, 2010
By Chris Tidey, UNICEF Canada


© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
A young boy collects water from a contaminated creek in Village Gaston Magon, Haiti.  

It is the third day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for the UNICEF Canada team. But in three days, I have seen so much and spoken to so many Haitian children and families, it is as though I have been here for weeks.

As I sat down tonight to write this blog entry, I had planned to detail the events of today
as our team explored the impact of the earthquake on children’s education in Haiti.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about an image from yesterday’s visit to a spontaneous settlement at Village Gaston Magon in Port-au-Prince. It is an image of a young boy crouching in a muddied creek and scooping the contaminated water into his mouth to quench his thirst.

I know this image will stay with me forever. No child should ever be without access to clean drinking water. Yet clean drinking water is something many of us take for granted.



© UNICEF Canada/2010/Tidey
Children and families collect clean water provided by UNICEF.

Fortunately, UNICEF and its partners are now providing enough clean drinking water to sustain more than 300,000 people per day in around Port-au-Prince.

As this number climbs with each passing day, I know we will reach that young boy in the creek and other children like him.

We can and we will because their survival depends on it.


For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230,
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806,