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Aid Groups Call for Focus on Children in Flood Hit South East Asia


Children with a float swim through a swollen canal in Bangkok, Thailand, October 28, 2011.

Children with a float swim through a swollen canal in Bangkok, Thailand, October 28, 2011.

Aid groups are urging the international community to take greater effort to protect children affected by flooding in South East Asia.

The United Nations says more than 825 people have died from floods across South East Asia, including Burma, Laos and the Philippines.

In Vietnam, 38 of the 43 deaths reported so far have been children. Of the 377 deaths report in Thailand, 50 were children, many between the ages of two and eight years old.

Jerry Velasquez, a senior regional coordinator with the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), says the floods are taking a toll especially on children in Vietnam, and Cambodia and Thailand.

He says families need to be vigilant during the crisis as people flee from flood bound areas in the hope of seeking food and shelter.

“For large families if you have two or three kids it only takes two or three minutes - you are rushing and one of your kids falls behind and all of a sudden you look back two to thee minutes later and your child is gone, so being aware and making sure parents monitor their children,” said Velasquez.

Aid workers say children are at risk from a variety flood-related health risks.

“North of Bangkok we see children playing in the water, bathing in it or even just trying to wade through the water to get to higher ground," says Annie Bodmer-Roy, a spokeswoman for the British-based group Save the Children in Thailand. "There is a real risk of disease, things like skin infections and diarrhoea children are exposed to the flood waters but also unclean drinking water.”

Thailand's Health Ministry says flood victims face the threat of drowning and electrocution from submerged electrical wires. But, it says, they could also be poisoned by toxins from inundated factories, farms and sewage from housing estates. Flood waters also increase the likelihood of mosquito-born diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, and Japanese encephalitis.

Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said in her weekly media address Saturday floodwaters have peaked and will begin to recede next week.

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