UNICEF rushes emergency supplies for cyclone-affected Tuvalu

Volunteers pack school bags at UNICEF’s Pacific regional warehouse in Suva, Fiji to be dispatched to Cyclone Pam affected areas. Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0449/Hing

Tuvalu, 19 March 2015 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is dispatching emergency life-saving supplies to communities in Tuvalu as part of its efforts to assist communities in the Pacific region that were affected by Tropical Cyclone Pam, with nutrition and hygiene kits arriving today.

The archipelago nation comprising of nine islands with about 11,000 people has declared a state of emergency, following tidal surges caused by last weekend’s cyclone, according to a UNICEF press release.

“Assessment data shows that 42 per cent of households in the northern islands of Tuvalu were seriously affected by flooding from tidal surges,” said UNICEF’s Pacific Representative, Karen Allen. “These supplies will help to meet their immediate health needs in the coming days.”

An assessment team has also been deployed to affected areas by the Government of Tuvalu, but lack of power has hampered reporting. Presently, there are around 89 UNICEF staff spread across Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, and more people are on their way to help with the emergency.

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.

Supplies include a basic health kit, 1,000 packs of water purification tablets, and vitamin A capsules. The health supplies will be distributed by the Ministry of Health, while the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies will be managed by Tuvalu Red Cross.

The health kit will enable UNICEF to meet the initial health care needs of the affected population where government clinics and private shops have both been damaged or destroyed. The kit contains medicines, medical supplies and basic 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.

“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,” Ms. Allen said.