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UNICEF Humanitarian Action Update South Asia floods 25 Sep 2007

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UNICEF IS RESPONDING TO THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN AND WOMEN IN THE AREAS OF HEALTH AND NUTRITION, WATER AND SANITATION, EDUCATION AND CHILD PROTECTION

- Heavy floods and landslides in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan have affected millions of children and their families.

- Thousands of villages have been marooned, leaving millions of people displaced.

- While flood waters have begun to recede, the threat from hunger, disease and malnutrition continues for the affected populations.

- UNICEF's biggest priority is to prevent serious disease outbreaks and to protect the health and nutritional status of women and children. UNICEF also focuses on getting children back to school.

1. ISSUES FOR CHILDREN

Heavy seasonal monsoon rains have caused widespread flooding across South Asia devastating communities and livelihoods and causing displacement of thousands of people throughout India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Across the subcontinent around 50 million people have been affected in what has been described as among the worst flooding in years - with yet more rains forecast in coming weeks.

Relief and recovery efforts are well underway in all affected countries - however the incidence of diarrhoeal and other waterborne diseases continues to rise. Access to fresh water, food and shelter for all affected populations remains the primary concern. In addition, millions of children across the affected regions are unable to begin the new academic term as their schools have been destroyed, damaged or are being used as shelters.

India has been worst hit by the floods with over 3,000 deaths and 50 million people affected according to Government estimates. As many as 42,279 villages have been flooded, with more than 1.7 million homes damaged or destroyed in 241 affected districts. The worst-hit states are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and Orissa.

Nearly 22 million people in 10.943 villages in 22 districts in Bihar have been affected by flooding. In Uttar Pradesh 2,546 villages in 21 districts with a population of 1.2 million people have been affected. As per official data, the affected population in Assam stands at 10.8 million and 127 casualties have been reported. In Orissa, a total of 1,917 villages in 12 districts with a population of around 1.6 million are reported to be affected. There has been a cholera outbreak in three southern districts of Orissa and more than 130 people have already died of this disease.

In Bangladesh, an estimated 10.6 million people have been affected by the floods and over 800 people have died. Bangladesh is prone to floods as the country lies on the world's most active delta, and it is currently bracing itself for new flooding after major rivers swelled alarmingly. This year's floods have already put nearly half of the country under water, displaced over 9 million people and caused considerable devastation to crops, crop land and infrastructure. The fresh floods threaten major damage on newly sewn paddy rice and vegetable fields on over a million hectares of land across the inundated districts. Safe drinking water is in short supply. About 59,000 tubewells, roughly representing 12% of the total in the affected districts are inundated. The number of children getting sick from diarrhoea is increasing. Skin disease and eye infections are also spreading rapidly due to exposure to stagnant and polluted floodwater over a long period of time. Children and women are particularly at risk, since children play in the flood water and women are more in charge of the household chores.

The effect of the floods on children's education is that for many school-going children chances of returning to school after the summer break have become uncertain. So far, 8,015 primary schools have been affected by the floods, with 7,780 being closed down. 526 primary schools are currently being used as flood shelters. Displaced and separated children are at high risks to various forms of abuse, exploitation and involvement in hazardous labour.

Details on the South Asia floods emergency response programmes can be obtained from:

Gillian Mellsop
UNICEF Representative
Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977 1 5523 200
Fax: +977 1 5527280
Email: gmellsop@unicef.org

Cecilio L. Adorna
UNICEF Representative
New Delhi, India
Tel: + 91 11 24690401
Fax: + 91 11 2462.7521
E-mail:cadorna@unicef.org

Louis Georges Arsenault
UNICEF Representative
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Tel: + 880 2 9336701
Fax: + 880 2 933.5641
E-mail:lgarsenault@unicef.org

Martin Mogwanja
UNICEF Representative
Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel: +92 51 209 7700
Fax: +92 51 209 7799
Email:mmogwanja@unicef.org

Esther Vigneau
UNICEF EMOPS
Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: + 41 22 909 5612
Fax: + 41 22 909 5902
E-mail: evigneau@unicef.org

Gary Stahl
UNICEF PFO
New York, USA
Tel: + 1-212 326 7009
Fax: + 1-212 326 7165
Email : gstahl@unicef.org