UNICEF Geneva Palais briefing note on the situation of children and families affected by floods in Bangladesh

GENEVA – “The situation caused by flash floods in north-eastern Bangladesh has deteriorated rapidly over the last week. At this very moment, 3.5 million children are in urgent need of safe drinking water. That is a staggering two million more children than just a few days ago. Huge areas are completely underwater and are disconnected from safe drinking water and food supplies.

“Children need help right now.

“Preventing water borne diseases is a critical concern. Children are at high risk in this desperate situation. Cases of diarrhoea and other deadly diseases are rising steadily with 2,700 cases recorded as of Tuesday this week.

“Over 40,000 water points and almost 50,000 toilets have been damaged.

“Water borne disease can begin to spread very quickly when people are forced to drink contaminated water.

“90 per cent of health facilities in Sylhet division have been inundated, and child immunization services have been interrupted.

“Over 5,000 schools and learning centres are submerged. Schools have been closed, at a time when children who were just beginning to recover from one of the world’s longest pandemic school closures.

“The risk of drowning is very high. At least 15 children have tragically lost their lives.

“Nearly half a million people have been evacuated into crowded evacuation centres that are not equipped to cater for the safety of women, girls and children.

“I am particularly concerned for children who have been separated from their family.

“About 2000 children were already suffering from severe acute malnutrition before the floods in the affected areas. Hundreds of them are in urgent need of treatment, which has been disrupted.

“Children and their families need help now. UNICEF and our partners are working against time to support the Government. The airport in Sylhet was closed down until yesterday and UNICEF has been moving supplies in by truck, through flooded areas.

  • 1,750,000 water purification tablets have been delivered. UNICEF is supporting the Government to bring in millions of additional water purification tablets.
  • 9,000 water containers known as jerry cans have been delivered.
  • Thousands of hygiene kits for women and adolescent girls have been delivered.
  • UNICEF is helping children who were lost in the chaos to reunite with their families.
  • We are also supporting children living with disabilities to access life-saving services.

“Let me finish by sharing a story about a little boy called Akil and his sisters Fariha and Samia. Their home was washed away by the floods. Gone. They took shelter in the only place their parents could find: under a tarpaulin at the back of a truck. For two days they had no water and no food.

“The family became more and more desperate as their thirst and hunger became harder to bear. When they managed to find a small shop that was open, a small bottle of water costs more than a dollar — a very high price too high to pay to quench the thirst of a family of five.

“After three days they finally received some relief supplies of food and water. They have now sheltered in the truck for over a week. The ordeal of Akil, Fariha and Samia is one that is repeated, one way or another, in the millions, right now in Bangladesh.

“UNICEF Bangladesh is urgently seeking $2.5 million in funding for the emergency response.

“Thank you.”

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