On Thursday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that more than 16,000 children are displaced in eastern Libya, following Africa’s deadliest storm in recorded history.
In a statement, UNICEF added that their psychosocial well-being is at stake. Many more children are affected due to a lack of essential services, such as healthcare, schooling, and safe water supply.
Adele Khodr, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, having just toured the worst-hit areas of Al Bayda and Derna remarked, “Children are the most affected in any disaster scenario.” Expressing her concern, she detailed the emotional trauma faced by children who are finding it hard to sleep, and interact due to the haunting memories of the catastrophe.
The destruction also saw immense infrastructural loss, with health and education facilities bearing the brunt. Around 117 schools in the impacted area sustained damage, 80 experienced partial damage, and four were completely razed. Waterborne diseases are emerging as a grave concern, due to compromised water systems, especially with an estimated 50% of Derna’s water infrastructure impacted.
While the exact number of child casualties remains uncertain, UNICEF briefed that hundreds might have perished, considering children make up approximately 40% of the population.
UNICEF hasn’t been a mere spectator. Just a day after the disaster, the organization sprung into action. Relief supplies weighing 65 metric tonnes have been distributed, encompassing medical necessities for three months for about 50,000 individuals, nearly 17,000 hygiene kits, winter clothes for children, and educational supplies. Mobile units have been deployed, providing psychological support to children, and helping them navigate through the emotional aftermath of the storm.
Emphasizing the importance of sustainable recovery, Khodr urged authorities and philanthropists to ensure a recovery process that prioritizes children and resilience.
As it stands, UNICEF is restructuring its humanitarian plea of $6.5 million dollars, emphasizing more on educational, medical, and water resources. However, the current financial support stands at a mere 25% of the required funds.