"Soon after the wind and rain started, we heard a large rumbling sound, the likes of which we had never heard before.”
This is the beginning of 15-year-old Praise Muferi's painful recollection of the day that Cyclone Idai barreled through her hometown, Ngangu, in Zimbabwe last March. She and her 10-year-old sister, Morefaith, were at home in bed when they heard the noise then rushed outside, where they discovered water and boulders tumbling down the mountain toward their house. Though the girls tried to flee, Morefaith's feet got stuck in the mud and when the avalanche caught up with her, she was buried in the rubble.
When natural disasters like cyclones strike, children aren't always capable of the quick thinking or agility it takes to outrun danger. With extreme weather a growing threat, the hazards facing children — especially those who live in poverty — are ever more grave.
“We are witnessing a worrisome trend,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF's Executive Director. “Cyclones, droughts and other extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity. As we have seen in Mozambique and elsewhere, poorer countries and communities are disproportionately affected. For children who are already vulnerable, the impact can be devastating.”
Cyclones’ heavy rains and flooding can devastate coastal and inland areas and cause landslides, conditions that can easily turn fatal for children. In the aftermath of a storm, the destruction of homes and the infrastructure that’s critical to their health and survival subjects children to longer-term risks. Contaminated water causes deadly waterborne diseases, like cholera and malaria. If crops communities rely upon for their food and livelihoods have been destroyed, kids can become easy prey for malnutrition.
When natural disasters strike, UNICEF is among those first on the ground and the last to leave. By prepositioning supplies in the days before a storm, UNICEF can quickly reach affected families and children with survival essentials. Working with local partners, UNICEF delivers safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation kits, medicine, protection, psychosocial support and sets up child-friendly spaces and temporary classrooms to help children cope. When children are lost in the storm or parents or caregivers are killed, UNICEF protection teams care for them while searching for surviving family members.
Once the immediate crisis has passed, UNICEF works to prepare communities for the next emergency by:
- Strengthening primary health care systems in natural disaster – prone areas
- Assessing risks to schools and other community services kids need, then bolstering them to withstand the next storm
- Providing durable solutions to the problems families face during an emergency in addition to delivering on-the-spot relief, like water, hygiene supplies and tents for temporary learning spaces
In 2018, UNICEF responded to almost 300 humanitarian emergencies — from conflicts to natural disasters — in 90 countries. The crises in nearly half of those countries affected brought suffering to more than 1 million people and took a heavy toll on the infrastructure they need to survive.
When disaster strikes, a donation to UNICEF USA is the best way to help children in crisis. UNICEF USA is highly efficient. Nearly 90 percent of every dollar spent goes directly to help children. When it comes to making the biggest difference, UNICEF can't be beat. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization and can ship lifesaving supplies almost anywhere in the world where children are suffering within 48-72 hours.
In 2018, UNICEF provided the full-range of lifesaving support children to children in almost 300 humanitarian emergencies:
- 19 million children were vaccinated against measles
- 3 million severely malnourished children received lifesaving treatment
- 43 million people received emergency water supplies
- 6.9 million children continued their education through conflict and crisis.
- 3.6 million children who suffered trauma received psychological and emotional support
Please give today to help UNICEF stay ever-ready to help children when they need it most.