UNICEF is there for New Orleans

September 4, 2008

Back in April, I traveled to New Orleans for the first time to meet up with my best friend, a Tulane alum. For years, she had boasted about the wonder of the city. Finally seeing it with my own eyes, I was struck by the thought that less than three years ago Hurricane Katrina had caused the death of more than one thousand people and had displaced nearly two million"including hundreds of thousands of children.

On Monday, almost three years to the day since Katrina, New Orleans was struck by another hurricane. Fortunately, Hurricane Gustav's damage was minimal compared to the devastation left in Katrina's wake.

katrina02.jpg
© UNICEF/ HQ05-1112/Radhika Chalasani
On September 10, 2005, a woman carries her one-month-old grandson, Devon, in a shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in the city of Houma, Louisiana. The family, who stayed in their home for nine days after the storm, was forcibly evacuated to the shelter. About half of the displaced in the shelter were children.

Did you know Hurricane Katrina was so catastrophic, in fact, that it marked the first time in history UNICEF was asked to assist in an emergency on American soil? Immediately, UNICEF set out to build an international task force with assistance from partner organizations including the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization and three UN interagency teams.

Funds raised by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF added crucial support to the recovery effort. Within two weeks, 935 School-in-a-Box kits and 740 recreation kits were flown in from UNICEF's central warehouse in Copenhagen.

Back in April, I traveled to New Orleans for the first time to meet up with my best friend, a Tulane alum. For years, she had boasted about the wonder of the city. Finally seeing it with my own eyes, I was struck by the thought that less than three years ago Hurricane Katrina had caused the death of more than one thousand people and had displaced well over a million"including hundreds of thousands of children.

On Monday, almost three years to the day since Katrina, New Orleans was struck by another hurricane. Fortunately, Hurricane Gustav's damage was minimal compared to the devastation left in Katrina's wake.

katrina02.jpg
© UNICEF/ HQ05-1112/Radhika Chalasani
On September 10, 2005, a woman carries her one-month-old grandson, Devon, in a shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in the city of Houma, Louisiana. The family, who stayed in their home for nine days after the storm, was forcibly evacuated to the shelter. About half of the displaced in the shelter were children.

Did you know Hurricane Katrina was so catastrophic, in fact, that it marked the first time in history UNICEF was asked to assist in an emergency on American soil? Immediately, UNICEF set out to build an international task force with assistance from partner organizations including the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization and three UN interagency teams.

Funds raised by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF added crucial support to the recovery effort. Within two weeks, 935 School-in-a-Box kits and 740 recreation kits were flown in from UNICEF's central warehouse in Copenhagen.


Each of UNICEF's School-in-a-Box kits included exercise books, pens, pencils, writing slates and scissors"providing 80 children with the tools they'd need to continue their education in even the worst conditions. UNICEF knows from lots of experience working with kids who have suffered emotional trauma that returning them to school as quickly as possible is one of the most effective ways to help them heal.

The School-in-a-Box kits and recreation kits were delivered throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, enabling kids"whose homes or schools were destroyed"the chance to be kids again. The kits also ensured that all children in the Gulf South"whether they had relocated to a temporary shelter a state away or not"could return to a learning environment at the start of the school year.

katrina01.jpg
© UNICEF/HQ05-1120/Mia Brandt
On September 10, 2005, children displaced by Hurricane Katrina help unpack supplies from a UNICEF recreation kit in the city of Meridien, Mississippi. The kit is part of a shipment of UNICEF supplies trucked from the state of Arkansas to shelters for thousands displaced by the disaster in the state of Mississippi.

Three years later, September is upon us once more and New Orleans' children are heading back to school post-hurricane