Widespread floods in Ecuador prompt UNICEF to begin distributing aid

3 March 2008 –

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will soon begin distributing mosquito nets, mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, water tanks and other basic items to communities in Ecuador, which has been hit by some of the worst flooding in two decades.

UNICEF is also supplying oral rehydration salts to help prevent diarrhoea-related diseases and training 100 officials in charge of organizing emergency shelters, the agency reported on Friday. Officials are also concerned about the potential outbreak of dengue fever, malaria, respiratory infections and problems caused by snake bites.

A disaster assessment and coordination (UNDAC) team with the world body is currently evaluating the situation inside the small Andean nation to determine how best to assist Government relief efforts. UNICEF is already requesting $800,000 so that it can respond to the most urgent needs of the population.

At least 14 of Ecuador’s 23 provinces have been hit by the floods, with the Government declaring a nationwide state of emergency late last month. So far, 19 people are confirmed dead, including five children, and some $82 million worth of crops have been lost.

The latest estimates indicate that more than 16,000 people have been forced into emergency shelters, and at least 315,000 people have been directly affected by the floods, which have swollen rivers to overflowing, destroyed homes and fields and submerged croplands.

In a situation report issued today, UNICEF said national meteorological officials have predicted that rains are likely to continue and in some provinces even increase, with flooding expecting to last until as late as May.

Ecuador is not the only Andean nation to suffer from heavy flooding this year – Bolivia has also been hard hit, and UN agencies are also operating there to bring relief.

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