SITTWE, Myanmar (May 15, 2013) - As Cyclone Mahasen threatens to hit the communities in Rakhine State, home to thousands of displaced people, UNICEF stands ready to support the government of Myanmar to respond to humanitarian needs.
Heavy rainfall and possible flooding that come with the cyclone is likely to deteriorate sanitation and safe water supply, with subsequent increased health threats especially for children. The living conditions of the people in Rakhine are already precarious as a result of inter-communal conflict and displacement. Should the storm make heavy landfall, their situation will become very fragile.
Together with other UN agencies and international NGOs, UNICEF is working closely with the Myanmar government to make sure that local residents are relocated to relatively safe areas, and that stockpiles in warehouses meet needs. The agency has increased its human resource capacity, sending additional staff to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, over the past two days.
“UNICEF, along with other UN agencies and international NGOs, is busy in Sittwe, especially in the northern part of Rakhine, to make sure that supply, provision and human resource capacity are deployed and to review different mechanisms to respond” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar.
UNICEF is assessing its preparedness in other parts of the country such as Chin State, Mandalay region and Kachin, where strong winds and heavy rainfalls may further worsen the situation of vulnerable communities. The agency is calling for greater financial support especially in WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), noting that earlier attempts have produced insufficient results for such critical life-savings interventions.
The Government of Myanmar has sought international cooperation and contributions in responding to the emergency. UNICEF fully supports the commitment expressed by President Thein Sein and the Government of Myanmar at a press conference in Yangon this morning, to carry out emergency preparedness and response without racial and religious discrimination, and to save every life as the utmost priority.
“It is important that all communities at risk are reached out on the basis of humanitarian principles and equity,” said Bainvel. “The cyclone can exacerbate vulnerability of the IDPs but this can also be a time when divisions along religious and ethnic lines can be transcended, and when solidarity for the most vulnerable, especially children, can unite people- and we should not miss this opportunity.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, 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. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
Kiní Schoop, UNICEF new York, 212.922.2634 and 917.415.6508, firstname.lastname@example.org