UNICEF Relief Efforts for flooding in South Asia and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

UNICEF Relief Efforts for flooding in South Asia and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

October 19, 2017 | Author: Mansi Mehta, Manager of Global Cause Partnerships, UNICEF USA

As a UNICEF USA employee and Indian-American, not only do I value the importance of serving the world’s most vulnerable children but, I recognize the importance of engaging Indian-Americans and empowering ourselves to dive into the world of philanthropy to continue increasing our visibility. UNICEF has a presence in 190 countries and works to provide lifesaving support to children and their families through emergency relief, education, nutrition, healthcare, water, sanitation & hygiene, child protection, social inclusion and gender equality. Currently there are three major disasters devastating the lives of children and families domestically and around the globe.

Flooding in South Asia

“Millions of children have seen their lives swept away by these devastating floods” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia. “Children have lost their homes, schools and even friends and loved ones. There is a danger the worst could still be to come as rains continue and flood waters move south” she added. Should you have loved ones, family and friends in the affected areas, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Since mid-August, there have been at least 1,288 reported deaths, with over 45 million people estimated to be affected.

Many areas remain inaccessible due to damage to roads, bridges, railways and airports. The most urgent needs for children are clean water, hygiene supplies to prevent the spread of disease, food supplies and safe places in evacuation centers for children to play.

UNICEF is on the ground working in close coordination with respective governments and humanitarian partners from three countries to scale up its responses and respond to immediate needs of affected children and their families.

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall in Texas on Friday, August 25, 2017. Harvey’s flooding has caused one of the worst weather disasters in U.S. history, with recovery costs estimated at billions of dollars. At least 30,000 people are in shelters and 56,000 9-1-1 calls were placed within a 15 hour window. Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency in 55 counties on August 28, 2017.

Close to three million are children in the hardest-hit areas. These children have literally seen their lives washed away – they have lost homes, schools, communities, and with that, their sense of security, normalcy and well-being. This includes children from poor, immigrant and/or families of color, which comprise a sizeable portion of the population in Houston and other affected areas.

UNICEF USA in Action

UNICEF USA (UUSA) is deeply concerned about the needs of all children affected by this natural disaster, especially the most vulnerable. We are leveraging our partnerships with local partners who are on the ground in Texas to provide access to resources, protection and assistance to the most vulnerable children.

More than 1 million children in the Houston area – particularly those living in shelters – will need help to resume their education.

UNICEF USA is prepared to support authorities’ efforts to get children affected by Harvey back to school in safe, healthy learning environments as quickly as possible through the following:  

  • Clothing, recreation and education supplies (e.g., backpacks, pencils, notebooks, etc.)
  • Psychosocial support for children to address post-storm trauma, which can impair a child’s ability to play and learn. This support will include child-friendly spaces in shelters
  • Temporary learning and therapeutic aids like “school-in-a-box”, “recreation-in-a-box” and “art-in-a-box”
  • Technical expertise and guidance on standards for shelter, water, child protection especially for the most vulnerable children in the emergency response, in addition to training for teachers to recognize and respond to traumatized children
A father holds his son as they evacuate their flooded home after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 27, 2017. © Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma’s devastation to the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Florida and the eastern seaboard of the continental U.S. included storm surge from large breaking waves that raised water well above normal levels.  It caused major flooding on several French island territories in the Caribbean in low-lying areas. Even in Florida, where Irma was downgraded from a Cat-5 hurricane, many were left without electricity for several days. UNICEF and UNICEF USA are concerned about the needs of children in terms of safe drinking water and food, and the health and protection of children and adolescents. We also are committed to continuing to provide a sense of normalcy to children during these trying times. In the aftermath of these disasters, we are working to get temporary classes up and running for children within 72 hours.

The School-in-a-Box kit helps create an oasis of learning for children in trauma. The kit contains basic school supplies, such as exercise books, pencils, erasers, scissors and other materials to ensure children continue learning during times of disaster.

Mansi Mehta is currently based in New York City, and works for UNICEF USA as the Manager of Global Cause Partnerships. She has her Master’s in Public Health, and values the importance of giving back through serving the most vulnerable populations. She strongly believes in the harnessing power of Indian-Americans and would like to work on increasing their visibility, especially in the world of philanthropy. If you are interested in donating for any of these three emergencies through UNICEF USA, please reach out to Mansi at mmehta@unicefusa.org.