The Myanmar cyclone and the China earthquake. It’s unusual for two natural disasters of such massive scale to occur within such a small window of time. Luckily, UNICEF is used to dealing with more than one emergency at once, while also ensuring that none of the ongoing programs in more than 150 countries where we work suffer. I guess you could say we’re very good at multi-tasking on a global level.
In Myanmar, our round-the-clock efforts continue. We’ve landed several planes filled with supplies: tents, tarps, blankets, medicines, emergency health kits, mosquito nets, cooking materials, school supplies, therapeutic milk, oral rehydration salts and three million water purification tablets. As we’ve mentioned before, UNICEF is working very hard to make sure survivors of the storm don’t now contract potentially deadly cholera or diarrhea because their only sources of water are contaminated.
In China, we just landed two cargo planes of relief supplies, including 16 tons worth of tents and 15,000 blankets. Shelter”even temporary shelter”is absolutely essential to children and families who have lost their homes. They need a dry space to sleep at night. And intense fear of aftershocks has led many families that still do have homes to sleep outside, making tents nearly impossible to obtain by regular means.
Even while UNICEF is in emergency response mode, we’re still thinking about the long-term needs of children. Both Myanmar and China have lost thousand of schools as a result of the disasters they’ve suffered. In Myanmar, UNICEF is already distributing roofing sheets, tarps and school kits to help as many children as possible start their normal school year in the next few weeks. These are essential but temporary fixes. In the wake of catastrophes like these, though, UNICEF uses the motto, “build back better.” That means we work as long as it takes to help disaster-torn counties rebuild facilities like schools and health centers so that children can have a great future, despite everything they’ve endured.
One last thought: I’ve noticed that mainstream news coverage of the Myanmar cyclone has fallen off a fair amount. I think this is, in part, due to the fact that it’s not always easy for journalists to obtain visas to that country. It is certainly not because the dire nature of the situation there is over. Please don’t forget about the people struggling to recover in Myanmar. And if you can, please help us help them.