Bangkok, January 26 – In the Pacific Islands, many children don’t have enough safe water to drink and their education has been interrupted as a result of the severe, ongoing El Niño. Meanwhile, children in DPR Korea are struggling to recover from drought, and children in Myanmar are trapped in ongoing internal conflicts. These are just some of the children in the region caught in a series of conflicts and natural disasters, who need urgent help to survive.
UNICEF is today launching a US$2.8 billion appeal to reach 43 million children in humanitarian emergencies worldwide. For the first time ever, the largest portion of the appeal – 25 percent – is going towards educating children in emergencies. This year UNICEF plans to dramatically increase the number of children in crisis who are given access to education from 4.9 million at the beginning of 2015 to 8.2 million in 2016. More than half – 5 million – will be Syrian children inside the country or in neighbouring countries.
In East Asia and the Pacific, UNICEF is appealing for $62 million to meet the needs of children in crisis.
“Climate change, deforestation and the worsening El Niño weather system are pointing to more frequent and intense disasters in 2016, impacting a larger number of children in East Asia and the Pacific,” UNICEF Regional Emergency Advisor Carmen van Heese said. “UNICEF remains vigilant to respond to disasters, while also investing in preparedness to avoid unnecessary suffering and keep up with the increasing risks for children in one of the most hazard-prone regions of the world.”
Impact of El Niño in Pacific Islands
Across the region, El Niño has been causing more intense droughts, typhoons and floods, with the Pacific Islands taking the brunt. Drought warnings or alerts are in force for Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and Palau. Children and families are struggling to cope with one of the worst El Niño cycles ever recorded, with more frequent and intense cyclones expected in 2016.
Children in Pacific Island countries face a high risk of malnutrition due to drought, crop failure, water shortages and poor sanitation. Some schools are experiencing low attendance rates due to water shortages. Children are hungry and dehydrated.
UNICEF is calling for $5 million to provide nutrition, health, water and sanitation, education and child protection services in Pacific Island countries. This will help prevent and treat malnutrition, prevent disease outbreaks, and keep children in school.
“Over 2.3 million people, including 1.4 million children, are at risk from water shortages, food insecurity and disease due to El Niño and extreme weather events,” UNICEF Pacific Deputy Representative Isabelle Austin said. “We need to ensure that children can access safe, clean drinking water, and that schools are able to stay open without interruptions to children’s education.”
Children affected by drought in DPR Korea
In DPR Korea, severe drought conditions in four agricultural provinces in 2015 affected overall food production, leading to reduced access to clean water and a reduction in crop production compared with 2014. The impact of this will continue into 2016. Cereal rations were reduced, impacting the nutritional and health status of women and children.
In drought-affected provinces, there has been a 72 percent increase in diarrhoea among children under 5 years, a leading cause of malnutrition and death. There are currently 25,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition who require immediate treatment.
UNICEF is calling for $18 million to meet the needs of children in DPR Korea, including $8.5 million for nutrition, $5 million for water and sanitation, and $4.5 million for health. This includes funds for life-saving medication, immunization, prevention and treatment of diarrhoea and pneumonia, therapeutic food, and access to safe drinking water.
Conflict in Myanmar and the Philippines
In Myanmar, UNICEF is appealing for $25 million to respond to ongoing and unresolved conflicts in Kachin and northern Shan and inter-communal violence in Rakhine. Thousands of new displacements and limited access are impacting the humanitarian response. More than 240,000 people remain displaced in Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan, and a further 308,000 lack access to essential services.
In the Philippines, UNICEF is appealing for $10 million to respond to conflict in the southern province of Mindanao, which remains unstable with more than 360,000 people displaced in 2015. Around 55 percent of displaced people are children. In addition to conflict and insecurity, the Philippines is prone to natural hazards, including typhoons, earthquakes and volcanoes, with typhoons expected to worsen in 2016 due to El Niño.