Over 1.5 million children at risk due to floods in central Viet Nam – UNICEF

New York: Widespread flooding and landslides in five provinces in central Viet Nam have left more than 1.5 million children at risk of disease, losing out on education and poor nutrition. At least 135,000 families have been directly impacted by flood water levels as high as two metres in certain municipalities, and over half a million people are unable to access safe water sources.

The floods damaged family homes, destroyed crops and livelihoods, and ravaged infrastructure. To date, 42 municipal health stations have reported damages and many more are cut off and inaccessible due to the flood waters, leaving mothers and children unable to access the basic and preventative health care so important in such times of heightened disease risk. In many locations, schools have been damaged and remain closed temporarily. As a result, nearly 1.2 million students are currently out of school and learning is disrupted. The window to provide relief is narrow as a new cyclone is heading toward the same coastal region and could make landfall in the next days.

UNICEF experts, who joined a team led by the Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority, have reached the most affected provinces and are assessing the situation of children and women to know the full extent of their needs. Based on the information gathered, UNICEF will raise and allocate further funds and expertise to support the government and communities, and address the many challenges they face.

“The flood and landslides have caused severe damage in the communes visited. Schools have been damaged, and books and other learning material are destroyed by water. The population can’t access running water, toilets are under water, and the lack of good hygiene and sanitation is increasing health risks. We are already seeing diseases such as diarrhea and gynecological diseases,” said Ly Phat Viet Linh, UNICEF Emergency Specialist traveling to Quang Binh, one of the most affected provinces so far.

“UNICEF has allocated an initial $100,000 for emergency relief in water, sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, and education, as well as psychosocial support and child protection,“ said Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam. “While we urgently address health risks, we must also get children back to learning. Given the circumstances many may need to return to online learning – so assessing access and connectivity is an important action for UNICEF. At the same time, we need to pay careful attention to children’s mental wellbeing – acutely aware of how such disasters impact children – not just their physical health and nutrition, women and children often face increased protection risks and they always experience stress and anxiety that we must address as quickly as possible.”

With weather forecasts predicting further rains, UNICEF is carefully monitoring health risks and identifying solutions to address the challenges now faced – such as disease spread, lack of nutritious foods for women and children, health checks and care for pregnant women and maintaining routine immunization services.

“As the reports come in from UNICEF staff in the affected provinces – the damage is heartbreaking and the risks to children mounting,” Flowers said. “These populations were already suffering from the impact of COVID, and their capacity to bounce back is tested. UNICEF extends its sincere condolences to those affected and we call on our family of supporters all over the world to support the recovery efforts.”