UNICEF is dispatching emergency life-saving supplies to communities in cyclone-affected Tuvalu. The archipelago nation comprising of nine islands with about 11,000 people has declared a state of emergency, following tidal surges caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam. While continuing our focus on the hardest hit island of Vanuatu, UNICEF remains committed to providing support and assistance to affected communities throughout the region. Presently, there are around 89 UNICEF staff spread across Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and more people are on their way to help with the emergency.
A rapid assessment team was deployed to affected areas by the Government of Tuvalu, but lack of power and communication has hampered reporting. Initial reports suggest that Nui, and to a lesser extent other islands, have been severely hit with storm surges, inundating houses, undermining building foundations, flooding food sources and killing livestock. Damaged water tanks have also taken a heavy toll on water reserves on the worst impacted islands.
“Assessment data shows that 42 per cent of households in the northern islands of Tuvalu were seriously affected by flooding from tidal surges,” UNICEF Pacific Representative, Dr Karen Allen, said. “These supplies will help to meet their immediate health needs in the coming days.”
The supplies include a basic health kit, 1,000 packs of water purification tablets, and vitamin A capsules. The health supplies will be distributed by Ministry of Health, while the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies will be managed by Tuvalu Red Cross. The supplies will be airlifted from Fiji and will arrive in Tuvalu on 19 March.
The health kit will enable UNICEF and our partners to meet the initial health care needs of the affected population where government clinics and private shops, along with their stocks, have both been damaged or destroyed. The UNICEF Kit contains medicines, medical supplies and basic medical equipment for up to 10,000 patient visits.
Water purification tablets are important in ensuring safe water for children, in order to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea, intestinal worms and typhoid. Vitamin A can boost children’s immune system and increase their resistance to disease, improving their chances for survival, growth and development.
“On behalf of UNICEF, I would like to express our solidarity and sympathies to the Government and people of Tuvalu as they address the aftermath of Cyclone Pam,” Dr Allen said. “UNICEF has been doing everything we can to help children and families cope, and we will continue to do so. We are awaiting assessment information particularly on damages to schools since we firmly believe that continuation of education in emergency situations is extremely important not only for learning outcomes but also for psycho-social recovery.”