13 August 2015 – Unicef stresses the importance of breastfeeding as continuing rainfall and surging floodwaters increase the risks to children and their families. Flood waters are now inundating Myanmar’s Bago and Ayeyarwaddy regions.

The number of children and families affected by floods continues to rise with the total now at 1.1 million people, of which nearly 390,000 are children. More than half of the affected are women, including more than 21,000 pregnant women and over 20,000 lactating women. As it becomes increasingly difficult to guarantee water sources are safe, the importance of breastfeeding to infant health is even more critical. Diarrhoea and water-borne diseases can be fatal for young children.

“Right now the biggest needs are clean water, food, and nutrition”, said Unicef’s Chief of Advocacy, Partnership and Communication Alison Rhodes. “As floods have started to recede in some areas, rehabilitation and recovery has to kick in very quickly to restore basic services for children.” 

The shortage of safe and clean water, and lack of access to basic sanitation, increase the risk for children of contracting water-borne diseases. Unicef and partners have been sending out radio messages in local languages on basic hygiene and nutrition practices, reaching over 4 million in affected areas. 

“Drinking contaminated water causes diarrhoea, which is one of the top causes of under-5 deaths. Mixing unsafe water into food, such as infant formula powder, can be very dangerous. Exclusive breastfeeding is the safest way to feed babies and breast milk has all the nutrients and antibodies to protect their health,” explained Ms Rhodes.

Together with the Government, Unicef is working to meet the urgent needs of all children and their families in temporary shelters and those seeking to return home. In addition to joint assessments of immediate relief and early recovery needs in the worst affected areas - in Sagaing, Magway, Rakhine, Bago and Ayeyarwaddy - Unicef is leading the assessment in Chin State, one of Myanmar’s poorest and hard-to-reach areas. 

Unicef is helping to restore access to safe and clean water and sanitation by building latrines and delivering water purification tablets and hygiene kits.  To safeguard children’s healthy development Unicef is providing urgent micronutrients, child protection kits and psychosocial support. 

“To scale up its support, Unicef continues to call for funds to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance for all children affected by the Myanmar floods” Ms Rhodes concluded.

--ENDS--

Notes for editors:

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk