UNICEF provides school supplies to 60,000 children in flood-affected areas in Zambia

By Glenn Shaw

LUSAKA, Zambia, 8 May 2007 - To help respond to humanitarian needs in flood-affected areas of Zambia, UNICEF has turned over 640 'School-in-a-Box' kits to the country's Ministry of Education. The kits will provide educational supplies to more than 60,000 children and 1,000 teachers in six provinces.

From December 2006 through February 2007, severe rainfall produced extensive flooding throughout Zambia, damaging housing, water and sanitation services. The floods disrupted service delivery in both the health-care and education sectors, and directly affected the lives and livelihood of almost 300,000 people.

Another 1.5 people were indirectly affected in 41 separate districts across the country.

Staff from the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, along with members of the national press corps, came together recently to revisit the heartbreaking stories of how flooding severely affected rural areas in Zambia. The Minister of Education, the Hon. Geoffrey Lungwangwa (MP), noted that the heavy rains had disrupted education at more than 320 schools throughout the country.

Providing a sense of normalcy

Prof. Lungwangwa and UNICEF Representative in Zambia Lotta Sylwander spoke at a ceremony to turn over the 'School-in-a-Box' kits to the ministry. They said the education supplies were needed to help children in flood-affected areas return to school - an important step in providing a sense of normalcy for children who may have been traumatized by the floods.

Each kit contains five flipchart pads, five permanent markers, 15 ball point pens, 25 packets of wax crayons, five boxes of 20 pencil erasers, 150 exercise books, 25 pencil sharpeners, 25 grade pencils, 25 plastic rulers, two hard-cover school registers, 20 boxes of white chalk, 20 boxes of 100 assorted coloured chalk, five chalkboards dusters, a chalkboard ruler, five pieces of plywood for use as chalkboard, four litres of black paint for plywood (to create a blackboard), and 1 paint brush.

All of these items are invaluable for teachers and students across this Southern African nation.

Ensuring educational continuity

With the heavy rainfall and flooding earlier this year, the impact on rural lives in parts of the country has been severe. Some districts have reported a 40 to 50 per cent reduction in school attendance; mainly due to infrastructure damage and displacement.

"It is important that children receive appropriate and immediate psycho-social support in affected areas in order to reduce the possible affects of trauma," said Prof. Lungwangwa. "As such, a return to normalcy and ensuring the continuity of their education is a basic necessity."

Ms. Sylwander noted that UNICEF's direct donation of $133,000 was an example of the strong partnership between the agency and the Government of Zambia.

"UNICEF received a request from the Ministry of Education in the very early stages of the flooding and was able to respond," said Ms. Sylwander. "We do believe that the continuation of children's education is vital, not only for a child's psycho-social development but also for the normal continuation of their lives.

"We hope to continue working hand-in-hand in order to further the lives of Zambian children and women," she added.