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UNICEF focuses response on children in storm-ravaged Haiti

2010-11-07

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, 8 November 2010 – UNICEF teams are in the field and in Port-au-Prince conducting assessments and preparing to deploy supplies and human resources in addition to those already prepositioned to respond to emergency needs in hardest-hit areas following the passage of Hurricane Tomas.

"Our immediate goal is to assess the impacts of the storm and prioritize our response and coordination efforts to ensure access to adequate sanitation, safe water, and basic health care," said Ms. Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.

"It is also imperative in responding to emergencies such as this that separated and unaccompanied children, who are most at risk during emergencies, are protected and reunited with their families," added Ms. Gruloos-Ackermans, who assessed the hurricane-stricken area of Jérémie at the south western tip of Haiti.

UNICEF is working with the Department of Civil Protection (DPC) and such UN agencies as WHO, WFP, UNOCHA, as well as on-the-ground partners to respond to the hurricane's after effects. UNICEF is also engaged with these partners in responding to needs as a result of the January 12 earthquake, which devastated this Caribbean nation.

Hurricane winds and water caused flooding in Haiti's five southern departments and in other regions including Artibonite, Centre, North West, and the communities of Léogane and Gressier, west of Port-au-Prince. Heavy rains and severe flooding have also occurred in upper Artibonite with as much as one metre of standing water reported in Gonaïves, north of the Artibonite River.

Artibonite and communities in the north-west region of the country have the highest concentration of reported cholera cases.

A focus of UNICEF's response will be on helping ensure the safe evacuation and relocation of children from flooded areas, safeguarding schools and school supplies, protecting children in IDP camps and orphanages, and on ensuring the continued operation of Cholera Treatment Centres, which are part of measures to prevent further spread of cholera.

Flooding and physical damage caused by the hurricane will further complicate the challenge of responding to the cholera epidemic that emerged just three weeks ago. Extensive flooding and the deterioration of clean water and sanitation supplies and circumstances can create the ideal conditions for spreading the cholera disease further, a risk that UNICEF and partners are addressing in their response plans.

A reported 501 deaths and 7,359 hospitalizations have been attributed to cholera in numerous locations throughout the country, according to latest figures from the Haitian Ministry of Health.

While needs assessments are ongoing, additional supplies are already en route. On Wednesday, UNICEF is expecting a large shipment of supplies, including 1.2 million sachets of oral rehydration salts, more than 8 million water purification tablets, and more than 5,000 tarpaulins for distribution in the most affected areas. Supplies, such as water purification kits, tarpaulins, oral rehydration salts, jerrycans, water purification tablets, and zinc tablets to reduce the effects of diarrhoea, had already been prepositioned in flood-prone areas. On-site assessments will determine the extent of additional needs.

About UNICEF 
UNICEF is the world's leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, we save children's lives and secure their rights in virtually every country. Our global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make us an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause.  UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps all children, regardless of race, religion or politics. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

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