The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is distributing more than 300,000 hygiene and sanitation items to flood-affected families in Thailand in an effort to prevent the spread of communicable diseases in the country.
“Hygiene and sanitation are always a major concern in any flooding situation,” said Tomoo Hozumi, the UNICEF Representative for Thailand.
“Although no outbreaks have been reported so far, contaminated flood waters can result in water-borne diseases. The risk of these diseases can be reduced through safe sanitation and improved hygiene practices, such as frequent hand washing.”
The items distributed include locally purchased bars of soap, chlorine drops of water purification, alcohol hand-wash gel and garbage bags, and are being delivered through the public health ministry.
Almost three million people have been affected by this year’s unusually severe monsoon season, which has resulted in Thailand’s worst flooding in 50 years. Vast swathes of the country’s 29 provinces, including the capital, Bangkok, have been inundated and 533 people have been killed.
Mr. Hozumi said he was concerned with the number of children casualties, 77 in total, most of them young boys, due to drowning.
“Children stranded in houses surrounded by water have no space to play, so they end up playing in the water,” Mr. Hozumi said. “Since many Thai children do not know how to swim, there is great risk involved.”
According to a news release issued by the agency, to prevent child casualties, UNICEF is supporting the establishment of ‘child friendly spaces’ at 40 large evacuation centres to provide safe areas for recreation and support activities for children.
Mr. Hozumi said UNICEF is also concerned with getting children to resume their education. “Getting children back into school and back to a normal routine as soon as possible will help speed their recovery from this disaster,” he said. “UNICEF wants to do all it can to ensure this.”
In some areas where floodwaters are receding, the agency will be distributing ‘school-in-a-box’ kits to some 1,000 schools that have been severely damaged by the floods. Each kit contains teaching materials for up to 80 students and can be used in temporary locations while their schools are being repaired.
In addition to these activities, UNICEF is distributing thousands of pamphlets with practical and simple information for families to protect the health and well-being of their children as part of its emergency relief efforts.
Earlier this week, UNICEF launched a direct mail appeal to its donors in Thailand for funding to support flood response and recovery activities. At the moment, the agency has a budget of $1.2 million for post-flood assistance for health, education, child protection and sanitation relief.