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Jun 12, 2015

UNICEF Nepal: Responding to a Devastating Earthquake One Month Later

Nepal, May 2015  UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1342/Panday
Nepal, May 2015 UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1342/Panday

One month after two major earthquakes devastated Nepal, one in six children in the country are still in urgent need of humanitarian assistance - with increasing risk of chronic physical and emotional conditions.

Food, water and shelter are still the top priorities for aid in the affected districts. In the past month, UNICEF has worked with partners to distribute tents, tarpaulins, hygiene kits, therapeutic foods, medical kits, information/education/communication materials, plastic buckets, school-in-a-box and early childhood development kits. To date, the total value of UNICEF supplies distributed amounts to $3.8 million, with a $17.6 million plan for more supplies while $13 million worth of supplies have been ordered.

The need for drinking water and repair of water supply sources has also been very evident in rural villages. To address this, UNICEF has made clean water available to over 305,100 people and more than 45,200 now have access to adequate sanitation and hand washing facilities. To fight against diseases, UNICEF is also carrying out a major measles and rubella immunization campaign for more than 500,000 children.

In addition to children’s immediate physical needs, the psychological impact of experiencing two earthquakes in less than three weeks cannot be underestimated. There has been an increasing need for safe spaces for children to be together, interact and play, feel supported and receive psychosocial support. To address this, UNICEF has been working with partners to set up 65 Child Friendly Spaces for more than 10,000 children in displaced communities. To help children regain a sense of normalcy, temporary learning centers for more than 950,000 children are being established.

Although relief efforts over the past month have helped to save the lives of many children in Nepal, the enormity of the task ahead to heal both emotional and physical scars is tremendous. 

 

Situation Overview

 

On April 25th, 2015, twelve days after the Nepali New Year, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earth- quake struck Nepal with its epicenter in Lamjung, 50 miles (80 km) west of the capital Kathmandu.

 

Devastatingly, a second earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 struck on May 12, 2015. This earthquake, with its epicenter in Dolakha District (east of Kathmandu) exacerbated the destruction and worsened living conditions for people, particularly in the most severely affected districts such as Sindhupalchowk. The second earthquake also led to further destruction of educational facilities and health infrastructure.

 

Out of the 22 most affected districts, the Government has prioritized and classified 14 districts as severely affected. These districts have an estimated population of 2.7 million, of which an estimated 1.1 million (40 percent) are children below the age of 18 years.

Working Together to Provide Relief

 

On April 27th, the UNICEF Executive Director declared the situation in Nepal following the first earthquake a Level 2 humanitarian emergency situation, based on an analysis of scale, urgency, complexity, reputational risk and capacity.

 

Most international humanitarian efforts are being coordinated through the Humanitarian Country Team. Some donor countries are also providing substantial direct assistance to Nepal through the provision of medical teams, technical expertise, equipment and other logistical means (e.g. air assets; vehicles; warehousing capacity).

 

The Government of Nepal has repeatedly emphasized the importance of coordination with district level government officials (Chief District Officers) for aid delivery. Transparency is also required on data sharing pertaining to donations and relief spending.

UNICEF in Action

Water, Health and Sanitation (WASH)

UNICEF’s target is to reach 840,000 people with WASH interventions through the government and other partners. This includes supplying people with safe water of appropriate quality for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene, providing access and use of adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities including hand washing facilities and bathing spaces as well as the provision of hygiene kits and hygiene education and materials through interpersonal communication.

UNICEF Achievements:

  • WASH interventions are taking place in 206 Village Development Committees (VDCs) in 15 districts. Two sub-national WASH clusters have been established in Gorkha (Gorkha district) and Chautara (Sindupalchowk district).
  • UNICEF has reached approximately 305,100 people with water interventions; approximately 45,200 people were provided with access to adequate sanitation and hand washing facilities and more than 225,600 people benefited from hygiene education and materials through interpersonal communication.

Education

The Education cluster is mobilizing to restore access to education as soon as possible. Temporary Learning Centers (TLCs) for children 3-18 with gender-sensitive WASH facilities have been set up. Teachers have been oriented to provide psychosocial support and key life- saving messages. UNICEF and partners are also aiming to reach more than 1.5 million children with education supplies, and are supporting the government-led “Back to School” campaign to re-start interrupted schooling, assess damaged school structures, and prepare for the monsoon.

To help restore the education system and to build back better, UNICEF will support the government to undertake data collection and analysis to feed into a Post Disaster Needs Assessment to ensure a targeted needs-based reconstruction, supporting the government’s Annual Strategic Implementation Plan and the next multi-year Education Sector Plan from 2016 onwards.

UNICEF Achievements:

  • 105 Temporary Learning Centers (TLC) have been supported by UNICEF, benefitting 10,500 children.
  • 30 school structural assessment teams deployed throughout the affected districts.
  • 1,142 teachers oriented on psychosocial support to children.
  • Continued monitoring of child-friendly spaces in the Kathmandu Valley to identify additional support as needed.
  • Agreement for an inter-sectoral rapid response mechanism with UNICEF and Plan International includes coverage of 50 TLCs through provision of key education supplies.
  • National guidelines on use of schools as shelter during emergencies prepared.
  • 28 percent of $8 million worth of planned emergency education supplies ordered.

Nutrition

The Nutrition cluster was set up to assess the situation and respond to immediate needs. Based on assessments, the cluster focused its efforts on protecting and supporting breastfeeding, impeding the arrival/use of unsolicited donations of breast milk substitutes, promoting life-saving feeding practices for infants and young children, improving the quality of complementary foods for children under-two, distributing supplements of essential micronutrients to children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, and preventing and treating severe acute malnutrition. 

In the next few months, focus will shift towards ensuring that district level governments, communities and families can provide for the long term nutritional needs of the most vulnerable children and women in the worst affected areas.

UNICEF Achievements:

  • Communication strategy on the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of artificial feeding reaching 380,000 families with a child under two years of age.
  • Multiple micronutrient powders and infant feeding counselling sessions to improve the quality of foods for 126,000 children 6-23 months old in 14 worst affected districts.
  • Large scale community-based screening campaign to identify children with severe acute malnutrition in 14 worst affected districts.
  • Ready to use therapeutic foods to treat over 3,000 children with severe acute malnutrition in 14 hard-hit districts.
  • Essential supplies and anthropometric material to reach out to over 500,000 children under-5, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers for the initial three month response.
  • Child Nutrition Week by mid-June to provide a package of 6 essential nutrition interventions - including vitamin A supplements and deworming prophylaxis - to over 350,000 children before the onset of the Monsoon rains.

Child Protection

The vision of the Child Protection sub- cluster response is to make sure vulnerable children do not fall victim to trafficking and violence, and that they properly recover from the emotional shock of the earthquake.

The response to date has focused on preserving families, identifying unaccompanied and separated children, responding to psychosocial distress through community based support services and specialized care, and preventing children and women from being trafficked. Working with government and other partners, the cluster has given particular attention to marginalized groups, such as children with disabilities.

UNICEF Achievements:

  • Family Preservation and identification of unaccompanied and separated children is ongoing in all 14 affected districts.
  • 65 Child Friendly Spaces set up for displaced communities, benefitting nearly 10,000 children.
  • 1,027 children in Child Care Homes provided with food and shelter.
  • 2,187 parents provided with Psychological First Aid.
  • 200 Recreational Kits for Child Friendly Spaces distributed.
  • 40,000 flyers on trafficking awareness produced and being distributed.

 

The Way Forward: Rebuilding for Future Generations

UNICEF envisions a brighter future for children in Nepal – healthier, better educated, adequately nourished and more resilient to future disasters. To do this, UNICEF is working with partners to:

Forge grassroots networks: To reach the most vulnerable children, UNICEF will open a few new zonal offices and strengthen a network of partners at the village level, ensuring sustainable and long-term programming in hard to reach areas.

Apply an integrated approach: In leading and co-leading humanitarian clusters in Education, Nutrition, WASH and Child Protection, UNICEF’s strategies apply a holistic programmatic approach. For example, in Dolakha, UNICEF and government partners employed a rapid integrated response where all the programs came together to implement holistic rebuilding and response interventions.

Link relief with recovery: UNICEF is working with the government to ensure that permanent solutions are found. It is working to build the resilience of communities in this area by incorporating Disaster Risk Reduction across all programmatic sections. To further facilitate recovery, UNICEF is implementing a cash transfer system to revive the market economy, especially at the village level.

Innovate for the long term: UNICEF will continue to apply creative solutions in its long term response, for example by using real time reporting for immediate and effective solutions, SMS and bar coding for logistics tracking, using national and community radios to provide psycho social support to children, and implementing the U-report system, enabling people in severely affected districts to provide feedback on the response.

UNICEF is committed to ensuring that children grow up with access to the full range of services they need, allowing them to reach their full potential to contribute to the development of their nation.

Nutrition Orientation UNICEF/PFPG2015-3070/Karki
Nutrition Orientation UNICEF/PFPG2015-3070/Karki
Child Friendly Space, Nepal UNICEF Nepal/Kpage
Child Friendly Space, Nepal UNICEF Nepal/Kpage
UNICEF Nepal/KPage
UNICEF Nepal/KPage

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Apr 7, 2015

Ebola: Getting to Zero

Liberia, 2015
Liberia, 2015

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is grateful for your lifesaving support in response to the unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Your generous investment has enabled UNICEF to lead crucial social mobilization efforts, support essential services disrupted by the outbreak and procure and distribute critical supplies so families and communities have the necessary tools to protect themselves from Ebola. Thank you for your lifesaving gift which is making a difference in the lives of thousands in Ebola affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Situation Overview: The Outbreak

Ebola has taken a dramatic toll on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing thousands, affecting livelihoods, disrupting public service delivery, putting education on hold, undermining economic growth and threatening the development progress that had been achieved in recent years. Since January 2014, there have been more than 25,200 confirmed, suspected or probable cases - including more than 5,000 children - of which 10,460 have resulted in death.

Massive gains are being made, with the number of weekly cases dropping below 100 in late March, down from about 1,000 in September. However, significant damage has already been done to communities, infrastructure and social services, presenting ongoing challenges to the realization of child survival and development imperatives. Although progress and recovery are afoot, the disease has not been eradicated, with Liberia confirming the appearance of a new case on March 20th following three weeks of no new cases. The resurgence of even a single case emphasizes the need to continue fighting Ebola with full strength, working to the day when there are zero cases throughout the region.

The current Ebola outbreak, the most severe in the history of the disease, affected some of the most marginalized communities in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, with Liberia and Sierra Leone still recovering from years of destructive civil wars. This vulnerability contributed to the spread of Ebola; fueled by already fragile health infrastructure, poor hygiene practices and the inability to control and screen population movements across borders. A combination of fears, rumors, lack of understanding about the disease, stigma, traditional burial practices and lack of knowledge and capacity for rapid response among healthcare workers contributed to the seemingly uncontrollable nature of the initial outbreak. 

Children were and continue to be particularly vulnerable – not only do they face direct risks of exposure to the virus; they face secondary risks as a result of the loss of family and caregivers and are in urgent need of protection and long-term support. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – where education and health care were already fragile before the crisis – kept schools closed for months. Non-Ebola related basic health services struggled to keep up with demand, leaving children more vulnerable to preventable and treatable illnesses and diseases. For many of the nine million children living in affected areas, Ebola has been terrifying. Children have seen death and suffering beyond comprehension, and have watched people in frightening outfits take away patients and bodies, many times family members, never to be seen again. For young children with the virus, Ebola was particularly distressing since they are isolated from their parents as they receive care. And those that survived the virus, or had contact with an infected person – including orphans – often face stigmatization.

 Despite these many challenges, progress is being made. From the outset, UNICEF has been on the frontlines in Ebola affected countries and in the heart of some of the most vulnerable communities. UNICEF has scaled up its response to halt the spread of the virus and protect and support children and families. These interventions contributed to the declining rate of infection in communities previously burdened by intense transmission levels. However, heightened vigilance and continued efforts are essential to ensuring gains are maintained and this promising momentum is not reversed. UNICEF will continue to support Ebola specific activities while simultaneously working to revitalize essential social services until the number of new Ebola cases is zero and into the recovery phase. 

UNICEF’s Response

The complexity of this crisis, the shifting nature of the epidemic and the differences in local contexts has required a rapid and flexible response over the course of the outbreak. Over the progression of this unprecedented humanitarian crisis, UNICEF has continually employed evidence based programming models, evaluating interventions as they are deployed and quickly adapting the model to best meet the most pressing needs. As the Ebola outbreak is unlike any emergency in modern history, UNICEF’s approach and strategy continues to evolve with greater information on disease transmission and impact.

Over the last six months, as the response built up and evolved, the focus shifted from containment to hunting down the virus. The only way to stop the contagious Ebola virus is at its source, treating every last case, and ensuring it does not recur. UNICEF and partners adopted a rapid response approach to allow for the swift deployment of teams and equipment wherever new hotspots of the virus emerge.

As outlined below, UNICEF responded to the needs of communities in a variety of ways across sectors and continues to provide vital supplies, capacity and support.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

As the lead agency for WASH in the emergency context, UNICEF is coordinating the WASH sector in the Ebola response, helping to identify and fill gaps related to water, hygiene and sanitation. Proper hygiene and sanitation practices play a significant role in disease prevention, especially Ebola. Ebola spread rapidly through families and friends because, in many cases, people came in close contact with contagious bodily secretions when caring for infected persons and didn’t have the proper sanitation and hygiene practices in place to protect themselves.

Since the outbreak, UNICEF worked at the national, regional and community level to institute WASH facilities and promote behavior change, providing education, sensitization and supplies so communities can protect themselves against the spread of Ebola through safe sanitation and hygiene practices like handwashing. This work not only helped halt the spread of Ebola, it paved the way for long term engagement around safe hygiene and sanitation, and is crucial to creating lasting impact through behavior change and education.

To date, UNICEF has:

  • Reached 100,000 people in Ebola affected areas with hygiene kits and supplementary activities include hygiene promotion so kits are used properly, monitoring and evaluation;
  • Set up handwashing facilities in health centers;
  • Provided triage and Ebola treatment centers with WASH support, including water provision and waste disposal;
  • Installed 127 new water points in Guinea since the onset of the outbreak, bringing the total number of people with improved access to water to more than 38,100;
  • Provided WASH package (sanitation facilities, waste management and water supply for drinking, personal hygiene and disinfection) to 31 Community Care Centers and 28 Ebola Treatment Units across eight districts in Sierra Leone; and
  • Conducted training for the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation crew on infection prevention and control measures, emphasizing behavioral change toward proper hygiene in the face of Ebola and beyond.

Social Mobilization and Communications for Development (C4D)

To prevent and contain the outbreak, UNICEF carried out communication and social mobilization activities at the national and community level. Conducting lifesaving awareness raising campaigns in all affected countries, UNICEF educated communities through radio, television, door-to-door outreach, pamphlets, posters and text messaging. Door-to-door outreach relied on a trained cadre of social mobilizers who were also tasked with identifying cases, tracing potential contacts and dispelling fears and rumors preventing people from seeking care. 

UNICEF messaging focused on addressing the lack of understanding and stigma associated with the virus. Social mobilizers have helped allay communities’ fears over the return of Ebola affected persons, including newly orphaned children. Because these children lost parents to Ebola, they may have been exposed to the virus and are thus listed as contacts. Stigma and fear can inhibit these vulnerable children’s transition back into the community; the role of the social mobilizer is to arm people with knowledge to fight stigmatization and ease the transition of survivors and contacts back into the community.

Communications for Development (C4D) efforts have also been an essential tool for social mobilizers to battle the spread of the disease. By educating communities and families about the modes of transmission and how certain behaviors, many of which are entrenched in cultural norms, can be modified to decrease the risk of coming into contact with Ebola, communities are empowered to protect themselves. Overcoming reluctance to give up deep rooted practices such as burial ceremonies is a major challenge; this is why UNICEF works closely with people trusted by local communities such as village elders, to get behavior change messages heard.

To date, UNICEF has:

  • Mobilized a total of 50,000 community volunteers, health workers, teachers, religious leaders and youth across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone;
  • Reached 1.4 million plus households by door-to-door Ebola information campaigns;
  • Facilitated community conversations about the behaviors that continue to drive Ebola transmission in their communities and what can be done; and
  • Supported radio programs covering Ebola related issues including stigmatization and prevention messages, as well as messages on back to school safety protocols.

Child Protection

UNICEF is one of the few organizations on the ground whose primary purpose is to protect children. As such, UNICEF reinforced community-based child protection networks to identify children at risk and provide early support as needed. Given the scale of the response required, UNICEF also worked to ensure efficient coordination of child protection mechanisms in conjunction with the three governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; at the national levels, this involved setting standards and mapping partners, while in communities it involved responding to needs in adherence to those standards.

Additionally, UNICEF ensured appropriate alternative care arrangements, including kinship and foster care, are made available to unaccompanied children and children separated from their families, while also conducting family tracing to reunite these children with their families. In tandem with these activities, UNICEF provided psycho-social support to children and families, including survivors, as well as supplies, protection kits and relief packages to affected families.

As a result of Ebola, UNICEF has developed protocols and guidelines for the care of separated children, increasing the capacity of government service providers to better serve their communities in the future. These interventions will also strengthen social protection of children in affected countries, so that children from vulnerable and extremely poor households are not trapped in a circle of inter-generational poverty as a result of the Ebola outbreak.

To date, UNICEF has:

  • Traced extended family members of children who lost parents;
  • Helped find foster parents if relatives are not able to provide care to orphaned children;
  • Developed a network of survivors and trained them in foster care and nursing;
  • Provided specialist care for unaccompanied contact children, pending family tracing and reunification;
  • Provided cash and material support (including food, clothing and hygiene kits) to families supporting children who lost parents or caregivers;
  • Provided 52,000 Ebola affected children with psycho-social support;
  • Registered more than 16,000 children as having lost one or both parents or caregivers;
  • Trained more than 2,500 Ebola survivors to provide care and support to quarantined children in treatment centers in Sierra Leone;
  • Helped the government train 400 additional mental health and social workers to support children affected by Ebola in Liberia; and
  • Established 432 community counsels for the protection of children throughout Guinea.

Education

As Ebola ravaged West Africa, the cessation of schools compounded the impacts of Ebola and posed new threats to child development. More than five million children lost months of education when schools remained closed after the end of summer holidays in September. With students unable to attend classes, UNICEF supported distance learning programs through radio and other innovative means, reaching an estimated one million children.

Schools reopened in Guinea on January 10, 2015, and in Liberia about one month later, while in Sierra Leone classes resumed in late March. Restarting classes entailed months of preparation as Ebola-specific protocols were developed to minimize the risk of transmission, including taking temperatures at the school gates, handwashing and setting up referrals systems with nearby health centers. UNICEF and partners trained thousands of teachers in applying protocols, which also set out procedures to follow should anyone show Ebola symptoms. UNICEF also contributed tens of thousands of hygiene materials and infrared thermometers.

Implementing these safety measures, with community involvement and outreach campaigns, has encouraged parents to send their children to schools. The longer children stay out of school, the less likely they are to return, becoming less resilient and more vulnerable to various risks such as early marriage, pregnancy and involvement in child labor. School can help provide a sense of normalcy, stability and hope to children who have experienced trauma – UNICEF is supporting the return to school as part of a greater return to normalcy. 

To date, UNICEF has:

  • Helped governments develop and apply measures to minimize the risk of transmission at schools, including temperature monitoring and handwashing;
  • Trained nearly 100,000 teachers in safety protocols in schools;
  • Reached an estimated four million children with hygiene kits distributed in schools; and
  • Supported governments to develop radio education programs to continue children’s education while schools were closed.

Health and Nutrition

Ebola has overstretched health and nutrition services that already struggled to cope with demand before the outbreak. Extremely limited and poorly equipped facilities, coupled with inadequate staffing, meant most health systems were completely unprepared to deal with the scale and nature of the outbreak. In addition, fear of infection led patients and some staff to avoid health facilities, further disrupting health and nutrition services. As a result, a significant number of children failed to receive their vaccinations and did not receive treatment for preventable diseases like measles and malaria, as well as acute malnutrition and HIV/AIDS.

UNICEF was at the forefront of providing stopgap services as the health sector struggled to cope with Ebola response activities, supporting essential nutrition and health services, revitalizing non-Ebola related health care and preparing for longer term streSierra Leone, 2015

Sierra Leone, 2015
Guinea, 2015
Guinea, 2015
Ebola Prevention Factograph
Ebola Prevention Factograph

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Jan 21, 2015

Ebola Crisis: UNICEF in Action, January 2015

Sierra Leone, 2014
Sierra Leone, 2014

Ebola Crisis: UNICEF in Action

January 2015

Humanitarian Crisis: In March 2014, the Government of Guinea formally recognized an Ebola outbreak. Before long, the outbreak spread to other countries in the region including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. As of January 15, 2015, over 21,296 confirmed or proobable cases have been reported in the region, of which 8,429 have resulted in death. With 9.8 million children and young people under 20 living in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, UNICEF is working around the clock in the affected communities to raise awareness to prevent, further contain Ebola, and provide the care, support and supplies necessary to protect families and communities against the spread of this disease.

A Race Against Time: We are in a race against time to contain and halt this outbreak. Due to UNICEF's long-standing presence and partnership with the governments of affected countries, we have been able to work quickly on the ground to protect families and prevent further occurrences, assisting the hardest-to-reach, most vulnerable and marginalized populations. However, UNICEF cannot do this work alone.

The time to act is now: UNICEF is working with the United Nations (UN) and national governments to respond to and contain the Ebola outbreak, averting further death, destabilization and devastation. This collaborative, multi-dimensional approach encompasses multiple sectors to stabilize affected areas and help ailing infrastructure and sectors not only responding to this emergency, but also to continue to develop capacity. Within the integrated UN approach, UNICEF is responsible for community engagement, including community care centers, social mobiliation and behavior change.

There is no proven medical treatment for Ebola. Therfore, emergency response involves activities beyond medical care. Prevention is the best and most successful solution to break the chain of transmission and contain the virus. With this in mind, UNICEF has three goals:

  • Stop the outbreak through community level actions, including isolating 100 percent of cases in their early stages and ensuring safe burials for 100 percent of Ebola related deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone;
  • Prepare other high risk countries so they are able to prevent major outbreaks; and
  • Build back better: UNICEF aims to support early recovery of the primary health care and other social systems in the most affected countries.

At this critical time in the lives of those affected by this devastating disease, we thank you for seizing the opportunity to partner with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Together, we can help protect the health, safety and well-being of the vulnerable families affected by this emergency, and prevent further outbreak of this deadly disease. Your investment is helping support UNICEF's efforts to stop Ebola in its tracks.

Your life-saving investment is helping support UNICEF’s response to the Ebola crisis, which includes three-pillars focusing on controlling the outbreak, scaling up prevention and preparedness activities and reinforcing and ensuring access to essential social services.

 

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children's lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, please visit unicefusa.org.

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