UNICEF aids hurricane-hit Haiti

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

United Nations - The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is currently present in the Haitian areas hit by Hurricane Tomas to assess their needs, UN officials reported on Monday.

Hurricane Tomas tore through Haiti since Friday, killing at least 20 people and injuring 36 others and having left seven more missing. The rains caused flooding in the south of the country, including the capital Port-au-Prince.

UNICEF cooperates with the Department of Civil Protection (DPC) and other UN agencies and partners on the ground to respond to the most urgent needs, the officials said.

"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 Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.

The recent 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, according to UNICEF.

"Extensive flooding and the deterioration of clean water and sanitation supplies and circumstances can create the ideal conditions for spreading the cholera disease further," the UN agency reported.

According to Gruloos-Ackermans it is also imperative to protect and reunite separated and unaccompanied children.

UNICEF will make sure children from flooded areas will be safely evacuated, schools are safeguarded and supplied, children are protected in camps, and will ensure that those displaced from January's earthquake are protected.

The current cholera death toll lies at 501 with 7,359 hospitalizations throughout the nation, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health.

Later this week UNICEF will ship 1.2 million sachets of oral rehydration salts, more than 8 million water purification tablets, and over 5 000 tarpaulins for distribution in the most affected areas.