Hurricane Dorian left 70,000 people without a home when it slammed into Abaco and the Grand Bahama islands on September 1st.
The Category-5 storm sat over the region for 40 hours, leaving behind an unprecedented path of destruction and 18,000 affected children.
UNICEF is on the ground helping the children who have been left in need.
Survivors at a loss
The children who survived lost homes and relatives, their families lost their livelihoods and there is little food and water.
A UNICEF first responder team is on the ground assessing and responding to critical needs such as water, sanitation and hygiene, health, education and shelter. Child protection and child welfare are key concerns.
The devastation has been complete. The area’s infrastructure will need to be rebuilt and authorities are considering the best way to approach that.
UNICEF Ireland spokesperson Aedín Donnelly told Virgin Media’s Ireland AM show about conditions for children on the ground: “The entire island is covered in rubble and broken down structures. It’s probably going to take weeks and months to clear that.
People have lost family members, friends, members of their community, their livelihoods, their homes are gone. Many of them had very little to begin with – some were refugees from Haiti, and elsewhere. If you are starting from a base of having very little and then everything is taken away, you will struggle to put together the absolute basics to survive.
UNICEF has a particular specialty in water and we’re coordinating efforts to supply safe and healthy water to survivors. We are looking at water systems that are contaminated and dangerous to use. The risk then is that water-borne diseases can take hold. If conditions are dirty or overcrowded there is an increased risk of cholera and other illnesses spreading. For children the risk is higher, because vulnerable people, children – and particularly malnourished children – are most likely to get sick.
Then we have to look at the healthcare side. We have to make sure kids are vaccinated. We really have to get back in at community level and make sure that basic healthcare needs will be looked after.
We are looking after psycho-social needs. Kids will be really traumatised by what they have seen. They have the idea that their home is a safe place, or that their parents can keep them safe taken away from them. We need to get them back in school. We need to get things back to normal.”
In the meantime, UNICEF’s disaster response has quickly scaled up. Within days, ten staff with emergency expertise were deployed, each of them bring a particular specialty to the field.
The lack of safe water and adequate sanitation puts children and families at risk of contracting waterborne diseases meaning water and sanitation has been prioritised for immediate attention. A week after the disaster struck, our agency’s first relief plane arrived carrying 1.5 tonnes of emergency supplies. Those supplies helped 9,500 people and included hundreds of thousands of water purification tablets, water tanks and jerry cans.
Back to school
By the middle of September, UNICEF’s response expanded to include the enrollment of 10,000 students in school, all of those children have been deemed to be at risk by our child protection specialists. Children experience trauma are proven to do better when normal routines are re-established and they are back in school. UNICEF is working with the Government to ensure children can access school even when their family has been displaced to another region.
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