- Half of all health clinics have been
- Education infrastructures have been
heavily damaged affecting thousands of children;
- UNICEF is grateful to those donors who have provided early funding allowing UNICEF to meet the immediate needs of affected children and women
Following the Earthquake and Tsunami in the Solomon Islands on 2 April 2007 UNICEF Pacific has mobilized staff and resources for the emergency response and early recovery. This response has focused on health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and child protection and has been guided by UNICEF's Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies and the immediate needs of children and women, as identified through a number of assessments on the ground.
Overall an estimated 10,276 (1) people, including approximately 5,200 children below 18, have been directly affected by the crisis, in the islands of Gizo, Ranonnga, Vella la Vella, parts of southern coast of Choiseul, Simbo, Shortlands, Munda, and Kolombangra. Many of these families have lost their homes and livelihoods (fishing and vegetable gardens) and have become internally displaced in at least 130 different locations or camps in the interior of the islands. They have lost their personal possessions other than the clothes they were dressed in at the time of the tsunami. Many thousands more have lost access to primary health care services, with many clinics destroyed or damaged by the earthquake or subsequent tsunami. Schools have also been severely affected, with at least 36 schools having been totally destroyed or washed away, leaving at least 5,000 children without access to schooling, and affecting the lives of many more thousands of children.
The temporary camps that have been established for the internally displaced are in rugged hill and jungle terrain. Water sources are generally in the valleys below, so access to clean water is very limited and the current lack of sanitation poses an extreme danger for the safety of the water sources they are currently using.
2. UNICEF RESPONSE: ACTIVITIES, ACHIEVEMENTS AND CONSTRAINTS
In close collaboration with local, national and international partners, UNICEF has responded to the humanitarian needs of the Solomon Islands population affected by the earthquake and tsunami. UNICEF has mainly focused on the priority areas of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child protection. However, access to the affected populations in the extremely remote area remains challenging. Supporting UNICEF's humanitarian response is further challenged by the difficulties in transporting supplies in a timely manner to the Solomon Islands and then further distributing them. The affected area has very few roads, one short grass airstrip and the main means of transportation is small canoes with outboard motors.
The activities listed described below are the result of consultations with the Government of the Solomon Islands, the Provincial Authorities, other UN Agencies and NGO partners. These activities form the basis of an emergency management plan that looks beyond the initial phases bridging humanitarian interventions to early recovery and rehabilitation.
In the area of health and nutrition, a measles immunization campaign is underway targeting 15,000 children under 5. In addition children will be given vitamin A, and children less than 1 year who have lost their immunisation record will be given new cards and catch up immunisations will also be provided. Multivitamins will be distributed to pregnant women and the multi-micronutrient powder "Vitaliata" is now also being distributed to children 6 months to 59 months. UNICEF has also distributed emergency health kits with essential medical supplies for more than 30,000 people. Over the coming weeks, UNICEF will be assisting the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and other partners to restore primary health care services, including routine immunization, promote home based care for children in displaced persons camp; and take measures to promote the nutritional status of children and expectant mothers.
UNICEF is supporting the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation department to assess and re-establish water and sanitation services to the affected populations and provide water and sanitation services to up to 3,000 IDPs. UNICEF has helped design and initiate construction of latrines for IDP camps, producing around ten new latrine slabs per day. UNICEF is also providing soap, water containers, water purification tablets, and construction materials (timber, tools and plastic) to RWSS in Western and Choiseul provinces. Providing adequate and safe water to the IDP camps will be challenging. These camps are being established on hills, above water sources, requiring the use of pumps. With sanitation facilities also being built on the hills above these water sources there is need to carefully manage the risk of water source contamination.
In Education and Child Protection UNICEF is supporting a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD), the Ministry of Women, Youth and Children's Affairs (MWYCA) and the Social Welfare Division (SWD) (in the Ministry of Health and Medical Services), Save the Children (SCA) and NZAID to establish safe play and learning areas. UNICEF is also providing technical assistance to the Education Sector Working Group to conduct an assessment on learning spaces and resources, involving staff from MWYCA and SWD, help them to create temporary spaces for play, recreation and learning; to receive psychosocial support and develop a child-centred recovery plan and back to school campaign. UNICEF has already provided supplies to support recreation and learning including recreation kits, school-in-a-box kits, other play materials including puppets and musical instruments. More than 1,000 children a day are using the safe play spaces established and School in a Box kits distributed so far provide education resources for more than 3,000 children. Tarpaulins have already been provided as temporary shelters for safe play and learning spaces and UNICEF is also working to source large tents for this purpose. Sensitisation of communities to the increased risk of exploitation and abuse is also important to protect children.
(1) Final numbers yet to be confirmed