At least 1.3 million children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance across the Bay of Bengal region following severe weather over the past six days, UNICEF has warned.
Devastation wrought by cyclone ‘Mora’ in Myanmar and Bangladesh, and torrential monsoon rains across Sri Lanka have left children homeless and in need of protection, nutrition and health services.
“Children who have had their lives upended by brutal storms, severe flooding and landslides, are now threatened by a lack of safe drinking water, inadequate hygiene services and limited access to healthcare,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF director of Emergency Programmes.
“We must move quickly to ensure that services and supplies are in place to keep children safe and to stem the spread of communicable diseases like diarrhoea, cholera or respiratory infections.”
UNICEF is particularly concerned about children and families who were already displaced and living in precarious conditions before the bad weather struck – this includes some 74,000 Rohingya refugees who recently crossed into Bangladesh and were sheltering in an area badly affected by cyclone ‘Mora’, and 120,000 displaced people in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
“The sad reality is these children have now been hit by double humanitarian crises,” said Fontaine.
“Displaced Rohingya children in Myanmar and Bangladesh, for example, were in many cases already struggling to access essential services even before the storm struck. It’s imperative that we reach these vulnerable and marginalised groups – as well as those living in poor communities who will be far more susceptible to fallout from these storms – with the support they need.”
The destruction caused by the storms in each of the three countries has been brutal. Initial reports from Myanmar indicate severe damage from cyclone Mora to villages, schools and shelters accommodating displaced people in Rakhine and Chin states. While in Bangladesh, Cyclone ‘Mora’ has affected around 2.8 million people in vulnerable coastal districts. In Sri Lanka, flash floods and landslides from monsoon rains have so far affected more than 631,000 people, displacing at least 77,000.
UNICEF and its partners are ramping up efforts to provide children and families from all communities devastated by the storms in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar with lifesaving services and support, regardless of their ethnicity, religion and citizenship status. This includes:
Bangladesh: Pre-positioned supplies in heavily hit areas of Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong, including hygiene kits, water purification tablets, plastic buckets, squatting plates and tarpaulins for approximately 11,000 people.
Myanmar: Assessments to gather information on damages and needs in central and northern Rakhine and China states where landslides have disrupted major supply routes. UNICEF has pre-positioned plastic buckets, water purification tablets, and tarpaulins and is working to provide supplies to get temporary learning spaces configured as the school year is just beginning.
Sri Lanka: Distribution of 1,260 10-litre jerry cans, 1,000 tarpaulins and 100,000 water purification tablets to affected communities, and support for government child protection efforts.