Children in Myanmar face a ‘double catastrophe’ as floods hit the most vulnerable, UNICEF says
YANGON, Myanmar, August 3, 2015 – Vulnerable children in Myanmar face a ‘double catastrophe’ as floods add to the hardship faced by children living in poverty and those recovering from violence and conflict, UNICEF has warned. Myanmar has suffered from severe weather for weeks, with winds and rains from Cyclone Komen that made landfall in Bangladesh on 30 July, adding to the damage in recent days.
According to the Myanmar Government, 36 people have died and over 200,000 people across the country are in need of lifesaving assistance. 12 out of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions have been affected by the rains. The Government has declared natural disaster zones in four regions – Chin, Magwe, Sagaing and Rakhine. Information on the number of people affected in the worst affected states, including Rakhine, is still limited, as assessment teams have been unable to reach affected Townships due to flooding, road blockages and landslides.
“The floods are hitting children and families who are already very vulnerable, including those living in camps in Rakhine State,” UNICEF Deputy Representative in Myanmar Shalini Bahuguna said. “Beyond the immediate impact, the floods will have a longer term impact on the livelihoods of these families.”
The Government of Myanmar is leading the response, and UNICEF together with other UN agencies is working closely with the Myanmar authorities to assess the urgent needs of children and provide support. The organisation has dispatched assessment teams to affected areas which can be reached, to identify the priority needs of children and families in terms of water and sanitation, health care, and nutrition.
“UNICEF has already supported the distribution of water purification tablets and hygiene kits to the affected areas,” Ms Bahuguna said. “We are working with the Government to get emergency messages out to local communities through radio, to tell people how to prevent water borne diseases.”
Myanmar is prone to natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and earthquakes. There is a need for more resources to scale up disaster preparedness, and to improve community resilience. The heaviest affected areas are among the poorest states in Myanmar, a country where nearly 70% of people live close to the $2/day poverty threshold, and children make up 34% of the population.
In Rakhine State, 140,000 displaced children and families living in camps are particularly vulnerable. Shelters, latrines, bathing facilities, learning spaces and other facilities in the camps were constructed for short-term use, and damage is expected because of heavy rains and winds.
Earlier this year, UNICEF appealed for $24.9 million USD to help children affected by violence and conflict in Rakhine State. The organisation has received $5.6 million, leaving a $19.3 million shortfall, even before the needs of flood-affected families are taken into account.
“The impact of these floods makes the need for funding, particularly for displaced and vulnerable families, even more urgent,” Ms Bahuguna said. “The poorest children and families are going to be the hardest hit, and we need to build their resilience so they can cope with these kinds of crises.”
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