Prevention of water-borne diseases and support for malnourished children a priority for UNICEF in Rakhine State, Myanmar
BANGKOK - Since unrest broke out in Rakhine State in Myanmar in June, UNICEF has provided urgently needed help to save severely malnourished children, to prevent water borne diseases and to provide basic necessities to displaced children and their families.
Heightened tension between communities and the isolated location of some affected townships has posed access and security challenges, but UNICEF continues to reach out to affected children from all communities in Rakhine and is working hard to overcome difficulties of access and security concerns.
While the long-term vaccination programme in Rakhine State has been delayed since the beginning of the crisis in June, other UNICEF programmes that pre-date the unrest – providing education, child protection and HIV prevention help to children in need – continue, though at a slower pace.
As part of the emergency response, access to child protection support has been made available to some 44,000 children, including 19,000 children under the age of 12 years, as a result of UNICEF training for Government Department of Social Welfare staff and 200 members of local communities. The training equipped them to carry out child protection assessments and provide immediate assistance to children who are seriously distressed as a result of exposure to the crisis and its consequences. Help has also been provided to establish and coordinate community child protection groups.
After some logistical and security delays, emergency efforts are underway to prevent the outbreak of communicable diseases by providing clean water and safe sanitation.
Some 9,300 internally displaced people have improved access to safe drinking water through the provision of shallow tube-wells and water purification products. They have been taught about the importance of personal hygiene and hygienic practices in reducing the risk of disease. About 1,100 households now have access to sanitary toilets and washing areas.
Plans are in place to provide life-saving outpatient treatment and therapeutic feeding for up to 160 children aged 6 to 59 months and 8,100 children in the same age group will receive special multi-micronutrient sprinkle supplementation.
Micronutrient tablets will also be given to 3,500 pregnant and lactating women. UNICEF and its partners are also providing support for improved access to emergency care and basic health services at health facilities and through mobile outreach health teams, and strengthened disease surveillance and dissemination of health information as part of outbreak response and disease control plans.
Additional emergency supplies were allocated by UNICEF and partners since October and are being distributed as required, including 25 emergency health kits, containing essential drugs and medical equipment for up to 250,000 people, and 500 family water and hygiene kits. Another 500 kits are expected to be dispatched to the region within a week. Some 2,500 tarpaulins, 750 pipes and pans for latrines, water purification tablets and ceramic water filters, 17 large water tanks (each of 400 gallons volume) have been provided to shelters.
UNICEF has given support for education to children in need in Rakhine State since 2007, including learning materials for children and schools, and this support continues. This programme provides in-service teacher training to all government and community teachers, promoting child-centred teaching and learning methods. Special UNICEF-sponsored training on school management and school self-assessment and planning has been given to parents and communities to increase their involvement in school management. UNICEF has sponsored a cash transfer programme to selected schools to implement their improvement plans.
Programmes to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV that began in 2008 are ongoing in four townships (Buthedaung, Myauk U, Yethe Taung, and Taungoke), though the conflict has impaired UNICEF’s ability to monitor the programme in Buthedaung. This support has improved the training and capacity of health workers and the quality of monitoring for HIV and has provided essential pharmaceuticals and equipment.
As of September 2012, some 60 per cent of pregnant women in Rakhine State had been tested for HIV – higher than the national average of 50 per cent – and 100 per cent of HIV positive pregnant women identified are either receiving antiretroviral treatment or prophylaxis to prevent HIV transmission to their children.
UNICEF’s response in Rakhine State is supported by UNICEF’s Global Thematic Humanitarian Response, UNICEF’s regular resources and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, and complemented by support from the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance in the United States Agency for International Development.
Additional funding of US$1.5 million is being sought for emergency supplies that are urgently needed now, following unrest in October. UNICEF is also seeking funds to provide stable support for the next six months to 1 year to children and their families caught up in the crisis.
Assessments of these longer-term emergency response needs are ongoing. Additional funds are also needed to strengthen UNICEF’s regular programmes in Rakhine state so that all children have access to quality services of the same standard as those available to children in the rest of Myanmar.
UNICEF is committed to supporting the health, education, protection rights and prospects of all children in Rakhine State and across Myanmar, based on its humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality.
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
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