BANGKOK/ HONG KONG, 21 October 2011 – In response to the massive displacement caused by widespread flooding in central Thailand, UNICEF and Save the Children are launching a project to ensure the safety and protection of children in evacuation centres.
Under the project, Ministry of Social Development and Human Services and local NGO staff and volunteers will be trained on how to better protect children in evacuation centres through improved safety measures, registration processes and prevention of separation, abuse and exploitation. Information materials, including posters and leaflets with a variety of child protection messages, will be distributed and posted at the evacuation centres.
The UNICEF/ Save the Children project will also establish 10 “child-friendly spaces” (CFS) at evacuation centres with large child populations to provide children with a safe place to play and to participate in structured activities. At the CFS, children will join arts, crafts, singing, dancing and other activities aimed at helping relieve stress related to being evacuated from their homes. Adults working at the CFS will be trained to help identify children suffering from severe stress for follow up psychosocial counselling by social workers.
“Child friendly spaces can be seen as a bridge to early recovery and long-term support for vulnerable children,” said Victoria Juat, UNICEF Thailand’s Chief of Child Protection. “These structured activities, conducted in a safe and child friendly environment, can do a lot to help these children start to get over some of the terrible things they have been through in the past days and weeks.”
UNICEF assessment teams visited three evacuation centres in Ayutthaya last week and earlier this week. Four more UNICEF teams will be traveling to other heavily-affected central provinces over the next few days to continue assessing the situation of children who are staying in shelters or still living at their homes in heavily inundated areas.
Following these assessment missions, UNICEF will discuss with the government and its other partners what other priority support it can provide to ensure the well-being and protection to children and families affected by the floods.
UNICEF is also distributing 20,000 pamphlets to families in flood-affected areas that provide information on simple, low-cost actions that can be taken to protect the health of children during floods and other emergencies, including frequent hand washing and drinking only bottled or boiled water in order to prevent diarrhoea and the spread of other water borne diseases.
To date, 52 children have died as a result of the floods, and most of those deaths are believed to have been due to drowning. Boys between the ages of 6-17 accounted for 36 of the fatalities, compared to just 12 girls in the same age group. This suggests that many of the deaths may have been the result of boys drowning while either playing in or trying to navigate deep floodwaters.
“Drowning is the number one cause of death for children aged 2-17 years in Thailand, even under normal circumstances,” said Tomoo Hozumi, the UNICEF Thailand Representative. “Parents and children need to be warned that floodwaters, even if they are currently shallow, can rise quickly and can also hide a variety of deadly hazards that can trap a child and result in death by drowning.”