- Children’s lives threatened by lack of clean water, poor sanitation, alligators in flood waters
- No deaths reported in category 1 event, but thousands of homes destroyed
- UNICEF will provide education and psychosocial support for displaced children
- Charity pledges to ensure government shelters are child-friendly amid concerns
DUBLIN/BELIZE CITY, 5 August 2016 – More than 110,000 children have been affected by Hurricane Earl, which tore through Belize yesterday. Roughly 27,000 of the affected children are under the age of five. Lack of access to clean water, poor sanitation, and the risk of mudslides, along with sightings of alligators and snakes in flooded areas threaten the safety of the country’s most vulnerable children.
The category 1 hurricane made landfall south of Belize City in the early hours of Thursday morning before reducing to a tropical storm as it continued on its path across the country causing widespread destruction to thousands of homes.
UNICEF has conducted an initial assessment of damage caused by Earl in some of the most vulnerable communities located in South Side Belize City. Staff members on the ground report that hundreds of families have been forced to seek cover with relatives, neighbours or in government shelters. Many families have lost their houses and belongings to flash flooding and winds of up to 80mph.
“The damage caused by Hurricane Earl has put the safety – and even lives – of Belize’s most vulnerable children in immediate danger,” said UNICEF Belize Representative Ivan Yerovi.
Although many families sought cover before the storm hit, some felt forced to stay in their homes as they feared for their children’s safety in community shelters due to the level of alcohol consumption and crowds. However, now their houses have been destroyed they have been left with no choice but to stay in these shelters.
“Our urgent priorities are to get children and families who have lost their homes into a safe child-friendly environment where they can access clean water, and get children back to learning,” said Yerovi.
UNICEF is working around the clock to give children and families who have been cut off from basic services access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. The organisation has plans to provide education and psychosocial support for displaced children and making sure that community shelters are child-friendly.
Belize Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow confirmed that no deaths have been reported. The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has declared the ALL CLEAR phase for the country. Search and rescue efforts, the provision of medical care and shelter, clearing of debris along the highways, restoration of utilities, and inspection of airports and seaports are being carried out by the authorities and organisations involved in relief efforts.
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