UNICEF concerned about children living in shelters after Brazil floods
NEW YORK, USA, 17 January 2010—More than 600 people are dead and some 15,000 homeless after flooding in Brazil that is being described as the country’s worst natural disaster in decades.
Torrential rains have hit the Brazilian states of Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Goiás and Rio de Janeiro, and still more rain is expected. Precise estimates of damage are hard to ascertain because the floodwaters have wiped out many roads, making access difficult.
“There is a lot of mobilization, people are giving donations and the government is working very hard, but we have problems with information. The information system is very weak,” UNICEF Programme Specialist Francisca Maria Andrade said in a telephone interview today.
Ready to help
UNICEF is in constant contact with the Brazilian Government and stands ready to help when asked. Its chief concern is the protection and care of children in shelters.
At this point, UNICEF is reviewing assessment forms that will be used in the shelters to determine the needs of children and their families. The organization is making some recommendations for shelter procedures, as well.
“Normally the army is the one responsible for providing shelters, but they don’t have special care for children and adolescents,” said Ms. Andrade. “Our idea is to help humanize the shelters, to have better conditions for children and adolescents.”
Contact with authorities
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced last week that the state of Rio de Janeiro will receive $1 billion for drainage and slope stabilization to prevent future flooding. He also detailed government efforts to rescue and assist flood victims, including tent hospitals set up by the armed forces in Rio de Janeiro.
Meanwhile, UNICEF remains in contact with civil defense and other local authorities. “Right now we are waiting for the government demand,” said Ms. Andrade. “We would like to help.”