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Rachel Wolff
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Myanmar: Half a million children affected by cyclone, aid agency warns

  • World Vision opens 37 "Child-Friendly Spaces" to help children cope with disaster
  • Children have witnessed "unimaginable horrors," face "risk of pyschological trauma"
  • Child-Friendly Spaces also helping children in China quake zone

YANGON, Myanmar, May 15, 2008—World Vision is addressing the emotional and physical needs of children impacted by Cyclone Nargis by setting up safe play places where they can regain a sense of normality. Some half a million of those affected by the killer storm are estimated to be children.

The aid agency is rolling out 37 Child-Friendly Spaces in and around Yangon to help children cope with devastating consequences of the disaster; many children have been left orphaned, injured or vulnerable to disease. World Vision’s priority is to ensure all children are safe and to support their recovery.

Thousands of the estimated 500,000 children affected will be able to play games, gain informal education and talk about their experiences in a caring and supportive environment facilitated by trained World Vision volunteers.

Samson Jeyakumar, World Vision’s child protection specialist, said: “Thousands of children are emotionally vulnerable and may be at risk of psychological trauma after witnessing unimaginable horrors such as losing loved ones and having to flee their homes.

“Child-Friendly Spaces will enable children to return to some sort of familiarity and help establish a routine, while parents try to deal with the practical realities of displacement.”

The spaces, serving up to 100 children each, are being set up in schools, community buildings and other sites. World Vision plans to establish more centers in the Delta area, where tens of thousands of children are displaced from flattened villages and are migrating into areas where they can access food and shelter. Hundreds of orphans are currently staying in monasteries, schools and other buildings.

Meanwhile, in China’s quake zone, World Vision plans to open three Child-Friendly Spaces to start. The agency has set up such spaces in response to previous disasters including the Asia tsunami in 2004 and the Pakistan earthquake in 2005. Its experience has shown that a structured program of children’s activities within a safe environment can help contribute to psychological recovery.

World Vision continues to distribute food, clean water, medicine and other emergency supplies to more than 100,000 people in Yangon and the Delta region.

END

Child protection experts and relief workers in the region are available for interviews. Please contact Rachel Wolff at 253.394.2214 or Rwolff@worldvision.org or Casey Calamusa at 206.310.5476 or ccalamus@worldvision.org.

Notes to Editors:

  • According to child protection experts, in the aftermath of a natural disaster, children continue to face dangers to their survival, such as waterborne diseases. In addition, they may suffer separation from their parents, distress and grief, health and hygiene challenges and ongoing community instability. A briefing paper (PDF file) on protecting children after disasters is available from World Vision.
  • In Myanmar, the UN estimates that at least 1.5 million people have been severely affected by the cyclone. With 32 percent of Myanmar's population under 18 years old, more than 480,000 of the survivors are likely to be children, who are especially vulnerable in disasters.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.
 

Who Is World Vision?

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice..



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