UNICEF expands relief efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, a young girl crosses an improvised wooden bridge which she built, in the Turks and Caicos Islands. © UNICEF/UN0122368/Moreno Gonzalez (CNW Group/UNICEF Canada)

NEW YORK, USA — UNICEF has scaled up its humanitarian response in Latin America and the Caribbean to help children and families affected by the series of natural disasters that have devastated countries in the region.

“Children in Latin America and the Caribbean have faced several natural disasters of epic proportions in September,” said Grant Leaity, UNICEF deputy director of emergency programmes. “With four successive hurricanes – including Hurricane Irma, the largest ever recorded over the Atlantic – and two major earthquakes in Mexico, the past few weeks have been relentless.”

In the past month, four major hurricanes – Category 3 or higher – have churned through the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean. The four storms – Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria – caused major damage to island nations in the Caribbean, as well as continental North and Central America, devastating the lives of millions of people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and displaced.

Two earthquakes in Mexico, 12 days apart, caused widespread damage and destruction in Central Mexico. The region has since experienced over 4,000 aftershocks, including a 6.1 magnitude quake as recently as September 23. Up to 7 million children live in the affected areas. Thousands have been left homeless and with no access to basic services.

Across the region, UNICEF has urgently scaled up its emergency response to reach vulnerable children with protection services, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and education initiatives.

“It’s absolutely vital that children who have lived through these traumatic events get the psychosocial support they need,” said UNICEF Mexico ambassador Thalia, who visited UNICEF operations centre this week to learn more about UNICEF’s response. “Through child-friendly spaces UNICEF is able to provide children with a safe place, to play, learn and begin to heal their psychological wounds.”

In Mexico, UNICEF is working with its partners in areas affected by the earthquakes to establish temporary schools, promote school safety guidelines, train teachers in psychosocial support, and distribute education supplies and early childhood development kits to teachers and caregivers.

For children and families affected by the hurricanes, UNICEF is working with partners and local governments to provide immediate relief including access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, provision of psycho-social support for children and working to ensure children are able to get back into education as soon as possible.

UNICEF is appealing for US$18.1 million to support its humanitarian response in Mexico, Cuba, the Eastern Caribbean and Haiti.

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