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

Four Emergency Supply Flights en Route

May 09, 2008, 01:00 ET from UNICEF

    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
     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 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:
 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