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UNICEF readies relief supplies for Vinta-devastated communities

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By Roy Mabasa

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has offered its support to alleviate the suffering in areas affected by Tropical Storm Vinta (international name “Tembin”) especially among the children and their families.

“We stand ready to support the Government and its partners to address risks on children’s life and health and alleviate suffering of affected communities as best as we can,” said Lotta Sylwander, head of UNICEF operations in Philippines, in a statement released early this week.

UNICEF Representative in the Philippines Lotta Sylwander (unicef. org / MANILA BULLETIN)

MB File– UNICEF Representative in the Philippines Lotta Sylwander.  (UNICEF.ORG/MANILA BULLETIN)

Sylwander said relief supplies prepositioned by UNICEF are ready for dispatch to areas of the Philippines hit by Vinta and its field teams are working around the clock to assess the scale of damage.

“Our heart goes out to the children and families affected and made vulnerable by storm Vinta at this time of the year when majority of Filipinos are getting ready to celebrate Christmas,” she said.

The relief materials prepositioned by UNICEF include water and sanitation supplies, such as water kits for families, large water tanks for community use, water purification tablets, jerry cans, and tents.

Sylwander said the situation of the communities displaced from Marawi earlier this year is of particular concern as the camps they were staying in were badly hit by the storm and tents have been destroyed.

The UNICEF official pointed out that in any emergency, children are among the most vulnerable and are at a heightened risk of contaminated water, lack of food and epidemics, and other hazards which often follow in the wake of a natural disaster.

“Saving children’s lives and ensuring they are protected is, therefore, its first priority, she stressed.

According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Philippines, severe flooding and landslides have been reported in Cagayan de Oro City and in a number of towns in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces.

So far, almost 270,000 people are reported to have been affected by Vinta, about 160,000 of them are said to have been displaced. The storm has claimed at least 240 lives and about 100 more are reported missing.

The OCHA, however, said these figures could rise as reports from the field come in and search and rescue efforts by local authorities continue.

“Vinta” made landfall in Davao Oriental on Friday, December 22 and swept through various provinces in Mindanao, causing flash floods and landslides.

Vinta followed tropical storm “Urduja” that struck central parts of the country, including the province of Biliran, affecting some 1.7 million people and displaced about 425,000 others.

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