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UNICEF ensuring access to clean water for thousands of children at risk of cholera in Mali

NEW YORK (July 16, 2012) — Following the recent outbreak of cholera in Mali, UNICEF is sending 20,000 water, sanitation and hygiene kits to north of the country as part of its emergency response.

Approximately 120,000 people, including 60,000 children, will benefit from supplies that include purification tablets, storage containers and other equipment. The supplies will be distributed through local partners working in the northern regions of Gao and Timbuktu, which are currently threatened by cholera. 

Since the start of the cholera epidemic about ten days ago, six children have died out of a total of 56 cases reported in Wabaria, Labbezanga and Ansongo on the banks of the River Niger in Gao. Although cholera is endemic in the Sahel countries, the widespread humanitarian crisis in northern Mali combined with massive population displacement and the onset of the rainy season, raise fears of a sharp increase in cholera cases in the coming weeks.

“We must do everything we can to prevent the further spread of cholera in northern Mali, which is already severely affected both by fighting and a nutrition crisis," stressed Frederic Sizaret, Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Mali. "With these kits, 20,000 families in the north will have access to cleaner water and will be better able to protect themselves against the spread of the ‘dirty hands’ disease, especially children, who are the most vulnerable.”

As soon as the epidemic was announced, UNICEF sent an emergency convoy of three trucks carrying medicines and equipment to help partners in the Gao region respond to 500 cases of cholera.

Cholera prevention for 500,000 people is already underway in high-risk areas. Kit distribution is routinely accompanied by information sessions to explain how to treat water and encourage better hygiene.

Each of the 20,000 kits, which will be distributed this week, contain collapsible hygienic jerry cans and buckets, in addition to a six-month supply of soap and water purification tablets sufficient for a family of six.

According to Frederic Sizaret, "The cholera epidemic on top of the nutrition and security crises currently faced by Mali increases people's vulnerability and risks, endangering current emergency response efforts. We urgently need more funding to respond to the scale of the crisis."

As of June, UNICEF has received only 12% of the $15.8 million needed for emergency water, sanitation and hygiene programs in Mali.

How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Website: www.unicefusa.org/sahel
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038

As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, the U.S. Fund will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.

UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress: the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. But still, 21,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, smasur@unicefusa.org

THE SAHEL REGION IN WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA

Map of the Sahel region in Africa