Widespread flooding and landslides in central Vietnam have left more than 1.5 million children at risk of disease, poor nutrition, and delayed development, UNICEF Vietnam said in a press release on Thursday.
At least 135,000 families have been directly impacted by floodwater levels as high as two meters in certain communes, and over half a million people are unable to access protected water sources.
Family homes are devastated, crops and livelihoods are destroyed, and infrastructure is damaged.
To date, 42 commune health stations have reported being damaged and many more isolated and inaccessible due to floodwaters, leaving mothers and children separated from the basic and preventative health care so important in such times of heightened disease risk.
In many locations, schools have been ravaged and remain closed temporarily.
As a result, nearly 1.2 million students are currently out of school and learning is disrupted.
The window to provide relief is narrow as a new cyclone nears the same coastal region and could make landfall in the next days.
UNICEF experts have joined a team led by the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority and they have reached the most affected provinces assessing the situation of children and women to know the full extent of the needs.
Based on that information, the UN agency will raise and allocate further funds and expertise to support the Vietnamese government and communities to address the many challenges.
“The flood and landslides have caused severe damage in the communes visited,” Ly Phat Viet Linh, UNICEF emergency specialist, said while traveling to Quang Binh, one of the most affected provinces so far.
“Schools have been damaged while books and other learning material are destroyed by water.
“The population can’t access running water, toilets are under water, and the lack of personal hygiene and sanitation is increasing the risk.
“We are already seeing illnesses such as diarrhea and gynecological diseases.”
|This aerial photo shows a vast flooded region in central Vietnam. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre|
UNICEF has allocated an initial US$100,000 for emergency relief in water, sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, and education, as well as psychosocial support and child protection, said Rana Flowers, the UN agency’s representative in Vietnam.
“While we urgently address health risks, we must also get children back to learning,” Flowers said.
“Given the circumstances many may need to return to online learning – so assessing access and connectivity is an important action for the education team.
“At the same time, we need to pay careful attention to children’s mental well-being – acutely aware of how such disasters impact them – not just their physical health and nutrition.
“Women and children often face increased protection risks and they always experience stress and anxiety that we must address as quickly as possible.”
With further rain in the forecast, UNICEF is monitoring carefully the health risks, including identifying solutions for addressing the challenges now faced – such as disease spread, lack of nutritious foods for women and children, health checks and care for pregnant women or maintaining routine immunization.
“As reports come in from UNICEF staff in the affected provinces – the damage is heartbreaking and the risks to children mounting,” Flowers said.
“These populations were already suffering from the impact of COVID-19, and their capacity to bounce back is tested.
“UNICEF extends its sincere condolences to those affected and we call on our family of supporters all over the world to support the recovery efforts.”