First child-friendly spaces offer essential protection to children

Keeping the youngest survivors of Typhoon Haiyan safe and protected is a key priority while their homes and communities are being rebuilt in the aftermath of the devastating storm, said UNICEF today.

UNICEF and the Tacloban City Department of Social Welfare and Development will open the first 'child-friendly' space on Wednesday in Tacloban City, in collaboration with Save the Children. The space is one of dozens planned for the region.

"Survival means not only that we address children's health, education and psychological well-being, but that we make sure their safety is given top priority," said UNICEF Representative in the Philippines, Tomoo Hozumi. "These spaces - the first of many we plan to establish - provide a place for children to begin the process of recovering from the loss of loved ones and the total upheaval in their lives, and help reduce the risks of trafficking, exploitation and other harm."

UNICEF is providing tents, recreation kits and specialised supplies for early childhood development, with the local government department supplying day-care workers, soon to be supplemented with social workers, animators and youth volunteers.

Children aged between 3 and 15 years old will be able to participate in structured activities appropriate for their ages, including play, sports, informal learning and discussion groups, to promote their recovery. The next location will be at the airport, followed by the Tacloban Astrodome and a local elementary school where debris clearance is underway to prepare the sites. Parents and community members are actively contributing to the set-up and operation of these spaces.

With few televisions, radios, computers and power sources surviving the typhoon, special messages developed by UNICEF and partners are also being disseminated to the affected population, advising parents on how to keep their children safe in the current situation, prevent their accidental separation, and how to assist children's psychological recovery.

In addition to the child-friendly spaces, UNICEF has delivered 30 tents to Tacloban to establish "baby tents" where pregnant women and nursing mothers will receive advice and guidance on breast feeding and young child nutrition.

"Keeping mothers and baby healthy is another urgent priority in the wake of an emergency such as this," said Mr. Hozumi. "Breastfeeding is the most effective way for infants to receive the nutrients they need, and breast milk also provides vital protection from disease and sickness."

"Mothers need support and encouragement to breastfeed when faced by so many stresses, and they need to be aware of the enormous risks of using powdered breast milk substitutes which in an emergency brings high risks of infection, malnutrition, illness and even death."



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