As Hurricane Irma threatens the lives of thousands of children, UNICEF is braced to respond

PANAMA CITY / SYDNEY 7 September 2017 - As Hurricane Irma continues on its destructive path, UNICEF has readied supplies to be distributed in coordination with national authorities in the most affected communities.
 
To ensure affected populations have direct access to information such as how to cope with the hurricane, UNICEF has also activated its U-Report platform, which allows it to send messages to youth and adolescents via social media platforms. The number of young people that have asked to receive these messages has been increasing rapidly over the past 24 hours, particularly in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
 
Although it is still early to know the full impact that Irma will have in the region, the main concerns of UNICEF centre on the supply of drinking water and food, and the health and protection of hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents and their families.
 
“Considering the possible magnitude that Irma represents, it is both hugely urgent and necessary to be prepared, informed and vigilant so that we try to avoid the impact on the most vulnerable, that is to say children,” confirms Marita Perceval, Regional Director of UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean.
 
UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean, in coordination with the country offices and headquarters in New York, has activated emergency situation protocols, and is in constant contact with governments, the other United Nations agencies, and partner organisations to offer the required assistance and support.
 
UNICEF has also pre-positioned supplies of drinking water, unperishable food and medicines, and emergency kits to be distributed in coordination with national authorities in the most affected communities.
 
UNICEF’s response to Hurricane Matthew
 
Irma has turned into the most dangerous natural phenomenon of 2017, and is now stronger than Hurricane Matthew of last October, a category 4 hurricane, that battered South Haiti and Southeast Cuba. 

In Haiti alone, Matthew affected 3.2 million people, of which 1.3 million were children. UNICEF actively participated in the emergency response working alongside the national Government in key interventions around water, hygiene, education, protection, nutrition and health, at the same time responding to the spread of cholera.
 
UNICEF continues to work with its partners in the area, and as a result of these actions, has, amongst other results, rehabilitated 75 schools that have allowed 25,000 students to return to the classroom, 400,000 to have access to drinking water, and 80,000 people to receive attention at the medical points installed in the most affected areas.
 
In Cuba, around 150,000 people lost their belongings in the province of Guantanamo, and 90 per cent of houses in Baraoca were affected. Hurricane Matthew also affected more than 290 education centres in the province of Guantanamo, and caused damage to 96 per cent of schools and day care centres in Baracoa district.
 
Approximately 6,500 girls and 8,000 boys in the municipalities of Maisi, Imias, San Antonio del Sur, Baracoa and Yateras benefited from education and recreation kits donated by UNICEF. Additionally, 153 education centres and 83 communities received early years development kits, that offered early education to more than 12,700 children on the island. 
 

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Notes for editors: 

About UNICEF 
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. 
 
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For further information, please contact:

Marisol Quintero, UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Panama, +507 6569- 2718, mquintero@unicef.org 
Alfonso Fernández Reca, UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Panama, + 507 6941-2277, afernandezreca@unicef.org
Charlotte Glennie, UNICEF Australia, +61 420 407 886, cglennie@unicef.org.au