Tsunami Update: No cholera, no measles, no typhoid

UNICEF releases a six month update of its relief and recovery activities for the Asian earthquake and tsunami. This summary provides a country-by-country view of achievements to date, and plans for ongoing recovery efforts aimed at children...

NEW YORK, June 23, 2005 (PRNewswire) -- As the six-month anniversary of the South Asia tsunami approaches, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF is reporting that the heroic efforts of concerned donors has helped make the recovery efforts a success. Following the worst natural disaster in living memory, there were early fears of a disease epidemic, trafficking of children, and chaos within the aid community -- all of which have failed to materialize.

In the relatively short period of time that has elapsed, tangible signs of recovery are present. For example:
* 90% of affected children have returned to school. Over 561,000 children are learning again with the help of UNICEF's school-in-a-box kits and UNICEF has paid for the rehabilitation of 1,573 schools.
* An estimated 211,000 children have benefited from psychosocial support organized by UNICEF.
* To prevent malaria, UNICEF provided 240,000 people with bed nets.
* And most importantly, safe water -- which helps to prevent disease -- is reaching more than one million people a day by UNICEF.

"The most remarkable outcome of the relief efforts is that no children have died as a result of cholera, measles and typhoid attributable to the tsunami crisis," said Charles J. Lyons, President of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "When the disaster first struck, we were gravely concerned by the likelihood of an epidemic, but UNICEF averted outbreaks of those preventable diseases thanks to our donors' generosity. Had donors not come through so quickly, many more children would have died."

Historically, children die from diseases that strike after a natural disaster, but UNICEF's pre-tsunami work helped to prevent an outbreak of child-killing diseases post-tsunami. As part of the recovery work, UNICEF has immunized about 1,200,000 children against measles. UNICEF has also distributed bed nets to stem the spread of malaria and provided nearly 850,000 children with vitamin A supplementation.

While the immediate relief phase is over, there is still much that needs to be done within the affected countries to see that communities are rebuilt and the livelihoods of the people are restored. Additionally, greater efforts are needed to protect the most vulnerable, including women and children. Within the next six months, UNICEF and its partners will continue to provide:
* An ongoing supply of clean, safe water and support for basic sanitation
* Immunizations to prevent fatal childhood diseases
* Special feeding for malnourished children and pregnant women
* Training to help adults identify and care for traumatized children
* Shelter and protection for orphans
* Education kits, school supplies and temporary classrooms
* UNICEF is also rehabilitating, refurbishing damaged schools and constructing new schools

Build Back Better
UNICEF quickly recognized that throughout its recovery efforts there is an extraordinary opportunity to improve the quality of life that previously existed within the affected areas and to address the chronic issues plaguing children in the region, such as trafficking and widespread malnutrition. With this in mind, UNICEF has quickly implemented a recovery guideline -- 'Build Back Better.' Wherever possible, UNICEF will help rebuild health and education services to a higher standard than was available before the tsunami, creating better opportunities for children and their families.

Donor Response
The devastation from the earthquake and the resulting tsunami has prompted the most ambitious and perhaps generous international response in history. Without the help of donors, UNICEF would not have been able to respond to the crisis with such swiftness; neither would it have accomplished so much to date and continue to plan for long-term projects. Globally, UNICEF generated over $500 million in funding for the affected countries. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF raised a record $130 million in contributions from children, corporations, faith based organizations, foundations and individuals in less than four months. This is the largest and swiftest outpouring of donations in its nearly 60-year history. Children in the United States alone raised over $12 million for UNICEF's relief and recovery efforts. This figure is unprecedented and a testament to the determination and generosity of children to raise funds to help children and families around the world.

An Update by Country
Each of the eight affected countries has different needs, from rebuilding schools to establishing adequate water and sanitation systems. UNICEF is supporting each country's recovery efforts as part of the overall recovery plan of each government. Yet, the majority of overall UNICEF aid is going to Indonesia and Sri Lanka, which bore the brunt of the disaster.

Indonesia
UNICEF's primary focus in Indonesia is on education, which has been allocated around 60% of the country budget of almost $190 million. UNICEF has committed $90 million to building 300 new schools and rehabilitate another 200 in Aceh and Nias within the next two years. As a bridging measure, UNICEF recently started work with the International Office of Migrations on 200 temporary schools. Other key areas are health and water, with UNICEF providing infrastructure, supplies and training in affected communities.

Sri Lanka
The UNICEF country office in Sri Lanka has developed a three-year plan that combines all emergency and recovery activities in a program budget of $136 million. UNICEF will seek to meet the needs of the 550,000 tsunami- affected people living in temporary shelters, transit camps, resettlement areas and within their own communities. UNICEF will focus on issues such as providing clean water and sanitation services, rebuilding schools and sending essential learning supplies to students, addressing the psychological impact of the tsunami for children, women and men and providing mine risk education.

Other Countries
The island nation of Maldives is particularly vulnerable to water shortages, and along with education, this is the primary area of UNICEF work. UNICEF will provide more than 2,500 storage tanks to supply water to schools, health centers and other service buildings in addition to expanding the provision of desalination units, and the training to use and maintain them.

The key sector in India is health. UNICEF will help local heath authorities improve their level of preparedness for epidemic, focusing on immunization and disease surveillance systems. UNICEF will provide supplies and generally strengthen maternal and child health systems in the state of Tamil Nadu.

The other countries -- Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Somalia -- are receiving support in a variety of sectors, particularly child protection.

About UNICEF
Founded in 1946, UNICEF helps save, protect and improve the lives of children in 157 countries through immunization, education, health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. UNICEF is non-partisan and its cooperation is free of discrimination. In everything it does, the most disadvantaged children and the countries in greatest need have priority. For more information about UNICEF or to make a donation, please visit www.unicefusa.org or call 1-800-4UNICEF.

###

More in Environmental