UNICEF Sends Purification Tablets to Myanmar

A Thai Airways plane carrying UNICEF emergency supplies landed in Yangon May 12, carrying 3 million water purification tablets. Three more planeloads containing medicines, emergency health kits, and special food for malnourished children, were planned over the next three days.

"The urgency facing Myanmar is so great -- every second can make a difference in the life of a Myanmar child," said Juanita Vasquez, acting representative of UNICEF Myanmar.  "Let's increase our support to improve the lives of children affected by Cyclone Nargis."

An estimated 1.5 million people have been affected by Cyclone Nargis and one of their most pressing needs is potable water. The tablets can purify 5 million liters of contaminated water, enough for the needs of 200,000 people for one week. With many roads still blocked by debris and fallen trees, distributing purification tablets is quicker and more practical than attempting to distribute large quantities of potable water.

UNICEF is concerned about the impact of bad water on the health of children living in extremely precarious situations. Lack of access to clean water and poor sanitation, inadequate shelter, and poor nutrition pose additional risks.

According to the UNICEF health specialist in Myanmar, 20 percent of children in the worst affected areas already have diarrhea, and cases of malaria have been reported. To counter more outbreaks of communicable and waterborne diseases, UNICEF has distributed 15,000 hygiene kits and has plans to distribute another 20,000, as well as to construct large numbers of portable toilets in camps set up to house people who have lost their homes.

UNICEF has appealed for $25.57 million over the next six months to ramp up critical services of water, sanitation, and hygiene; child protection; education, and telecommunications services.

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