UNICEF aids Venezuela flood victims

Tuesday, 21 December 1999: Floods and mudslides in Venezuela, resulting from weeks of torrential rains, have left thousands dead, tens of thousands unaccounted for and an estimated 150,000 homeless, according to information coming from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Caracas. The flood and its lethal aftermath is Venezuela's worst natural disaster this century.
Carel De Rooy, UNICEF Area Representative for Colombia and Venezuela, arrived in the affected areas Monday to map immediate and mid-term priorities for UNICEF relief to the victims, including an estimated 1,000 children who have been separated from their parents. Three states -- Vargas, Mirand and Zulia -- and the federal capital of Caracas are the most affected by the floods.

UNICEF is focusing its relief response in the following areas:

  • Essential medical supplies, first aid and prevention of outbreaks of disease;
  • Basic sanitation and hygiene education through the mass media;
  • Getting children back to school quickly and provision of school supplies;
  • Water purification tablets and water tanks to hold fresh water;
  • Psycho-social rehabilitation for thousands of children traumatized by the event;
  • Assistance in relocating 2,000 indigenous Amerindian families in the stricken Zulia state. UNICEF staff had been working with this population to improve nutrition levels prior to the disaster.

Some 50,000 children are estimated to be out of school. Thousands of children will likely be in need of psychosocial support to recover from the trauma of witnessing so much devastation and loss of life. UNICEF has learned in Kosovo and Turkey that early efforts in this area are crucial to long-term recovery.

A UN Disaster Management Team has been activated and a local UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) has been mobilized to assist the Venezuelan UN Resident Coordinator.

Please email with comments or requests for more information, quoting CF/DOC/PR/1999/61

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