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UNICEF: 'Every Second Can Make a Difference' to Myanmar's Children; 20% Already Suffering from Diarrhea, Malaria reported
Date:5/9/2008

Four Emergency Supply Flights en Route

NEW YORK, May 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Thai Airways plane carrying UNICEF emergency supplies landed in Yangon today, carrying three million water purification tablets. Three more planeloads containing medicines, emergency health kits and special food for malnourished children, are planned over the next three days.

"The urgency facing Myanmar is so great -- every second can make a difference in the life of a Myanmar child," said Juanita Vasquez, Acting Representative of UNICEF Mynamar. "Let's increase our support to improve the lives of children affected by Cyclone Nargis."

An estimated 1.5 million people have been severely affected by Cyclone Nargis and one of their most pressing needs is potable water. The tablets that have now arrived can purify five million liters of contaminated water, enough for the needs of 200,000 people for one week. With many roads still blocked by debris and fallen trees, distributing purification tablets is quicker and more practical than attempting to distribute large quantities of potable water.

UNICEF is very concerned about the impact of bad water on the health of children living in extremely precarious situations. Lack of access to clean water and poor sanitation, inadequate shelter and poor nutrition pose additional risks to children who are already vulnerable to disease and hunger.

According to UNICEF health specialists in Myanmar, 20 percent of children in the worst affected areas already have diarrhea and cases of malaria have also been reported. To counter more outbreaks of communicable and water-borne diseases, UNICEF has distributed 15,000 hygiene kits and has plans to distribute another 20,000, as well as to construct large numbers of portable toilets in camps set up to house people who have lost their homes.

"Childhood is time-sensitive -- kids cannot go weeks without basic survival needs -- their lives depend on immediate humanitarian assistance," said Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "Even before this cyclone, one in three Myanmar children was malnourished. Now there's been a massive disruption in food and water supply, widespread destruction of homes, health and sanitation facilities. The heat is intense and pools of standing water permeate cramped makeshift shelters, creating a breeding ground for mosquitos. Stern continued, "Given these conditions, we are going to see a rise in malaria cases, and diarrhea, which are two of the deadliest threats to children.

"UNICEF has appealed for $25.57 million over the next six months to ramp up critical services of water, sanitation and hygiene; child protection; education and telecommunications services. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is welcoming contributions of all sizes via http://www.unicefusa.org and notes that donations will not sit idle -- once received, they are processed and converted into practical assistance within hours.

UNICEF has been working in Myanmar since 1950 and began responding to survivors of the cyclone within hours using pre-positioned supplies. Due to the scale of this humanitarian crisis, public support is critical in helping UNICEF meet the massive needs of surviving children.

To donate to the Cyclone Nargis disaster, please go to: http://www.unicefusa.org/myanmar or call 1-800 4UNICEF.

About UNICEF

For more than 60 years, UNICEF has been the world's leading international children's organization, working in over 150 countries to address the ongoing issues that affect why kids are dying. UNICEF provides lifesaving nutrition, clean water, education, protection and emergency response saving more young lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. While millions of children die every year of preventable causes like dehydration, upper respiratory infections and measles, UNICEF, with the support of partnering organizations and donors alike, has the global experience, resources and reach to give children the best hope of survival. For more information about UNICEF, please visit http://www.unicefusa.org.


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SOURCE UNICEF
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