FIJI FLOODS RAISE CONCERNS FOR CHILDREN’S’ HEALTH

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UNICEF: Awareness, prevention key to prevent diseases

By Avinesh Gopal

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 9, 2012) – The United Nations Children’s Fund says nutrition for children affected by the floods is a major concern.

UNICEF Pacific representative, Dr. Isiye Ndombi said: "Providing mothers of infants with a safe space and the support to breastfeed is the simplest and best way we can protect our youngest children particularly when hygiene and water is a challenge."

In a statement, UNICEF advised that food supplied to families in need should contain a balance of protein from fish and dhal, as well as starchy basics such as noodles, rice and biscuits.

The organization encouraged mothers of infants to continue to exclusively breastfeed their newborn children.

Over the long term, it said, families who have lost crops and incomes should be supported to ensure that children’s health and well-being is not compromised.

UNICEF said it was especially concerned over access to clean water for drinking and bathing.

It said leptospirosis, diarrhea and typhoid were a real threat in flood-affected areas. With the Fiji Red Cross Society, it is distributing water and sanitation kits to families in need in the Western Division.

Each kit contains water containers, purification tablets and soap to safely store and prepare clean drinking water and to support adequate hygiene.

UNICEF said it is also helping partners prepare for any eventual disease outbreak through the provision of essential health supplies.

Ndombi said preparedness was the key.

"It is essential that we work proactively to prevent disease outbreaks in flood-affected areas," he said.

"Diarrhea, leptospirosis and typhoid can be fatal, especially so for children."

"We need to make sure that families are aware of the risks and how to address them, and are supported with access to water and sanitation," said Ndombi.

The international organization said with schools in the Western Division due to reopen tomorrow, it is also working with partners to get flood-affected schools re-equipped in time.

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