UNICEF warns of disease risk for children
UNICEF says that the health and wellbeing of children affected by the disaster are hanging in the balance as many have been left homeless, in deep shock and with no access to basic care, one week after the earthquake in Nepal.
“With the monsoon season only a few weeks away, children will be at heightened risk of diseases like cholera and diarrhoeal infections, as well as being more vulnerable to the threat of landslides and floods,” the UNICEF said in a press note.
“The earthquake has caused unimaginable destruction,” UNICEF deputy representative in Nepal Rownak Khan said, adding that hospitals are overflowing, water is scarce, bodies are still buried under the rubble and people are still sleeping in the open. “It is a perfect breeding ground for diseases.”
The April 25 devastating earthquake flattened more than 130,000 homes and left three million people in need of food assistance. Some 24,000 people are currently staying in 13 camps in Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Valley seems to be a refugee camp as the people are taking shelter in open spaces due to fear of earthquake striking back.
In a country where just over 40 per cent of children are stunted, fears for children’s nutrition are rising, the UNICEF said, adding that at least 15,000 children with severe acute malnutrition require therapeutic feeding. “There is also an urgent need for children in the 12 most affected districts to get back to their normal routine by setting up child-friendly spaces, opening schools and providing access to basic services, such as health and water.”
As soon as the earthquake struck one week ago, UNICEF used its pre-positioned relief supplies to mount an emergency response and was able to provide aid, including tents to serve as emergency clinics at hospitals, tarpaulin for shelter, water trucking services in informal camps, water purification tablets and hygiene kits, it added.
UNICEF is broadening its response so that children in the most severely affected communities, including those in hard-to-reach areas beyond Kathmandu, are provided with lifesaving services and supplies.
“We have a small window of time to put in place measures that will keep earthquake-affected children safe from infectious disease outbreaks – a danger that would be exacerbated by the wet and muddy conditions brought on with the rains,” Khan said, adding that that’s why it’s so crucial to get essential medicine, medical equipment, tents and water supplies out to these areas now.
Many Nepalis have been sleeping in the open since the quake, with survivors afraid to return to their homes because of powerful aftershocks. Tents had been pitched in Kathmandu’s main sports stadium and on its only golf course. There is a huge scarcity of the tents as almost all the Valleyiets are out of the house.
UNICEF said it has launched a $50 million appeal to support its humanitarian response to the earthquake in Nepal for the next three months.