Children wait to fill up a bucket with water from a tap in a neighbourhood in Beira, Mozambique, Tuesday, April, 2, 2019. File photo: AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi.

NEW YORK - At least 1.6 million children still need urgent assistance in healthcare, nutrition, protection, education, water, and sanitation one month after Cyclone Idai devastated parts of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) said on Sunday.

Any prolonged interruption in access to essential services could lead to disease outbreaks and spikes in malnutrition, to which children are especially vulnerable, Unicef said in a statement.

The needs in Mozambique remained massive with one million children in need of assistance, followed by more than 443,000 in Malawi, and 130,000 in Zimbabwe. Mozambique had already seen cases of cholera and malaria surge to 4600 and 7500 respectively since the cyclone hit.

Unicef was particularly worried about access to services for the more 130,000 children still displaced following the cyclone, most of whom were in Mozambique and Malawi. More than 200,000 homes were destroyed by the storm in Mozambique alone. 

“Children living in crowded shelters or away from their homes are at risk of diseases, exploitation, and abuse,” said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore, who visited Beira in Mozambique immediately after the cyclone hit.

“The road to recovery will be long. It is imperative that humanitarian partners are there every step of the way. We need to help children and families survive and then get back on their feet,” she said.

Across the three countries, flood water had largely receded, and some affected families had started to return home. Yet thousands remained in evacuation camps because their houses were damaged or destroyed. Food security was also a major issue because the storm destroyed crops weeks before the harvest. 

Unicef and its partners continued to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of children and families.

In Mozambique, Unicef provided vaccines to successfully immunise 900,000 people against cholera, had begun distribution of 500,000 mosquito nets to protect children from malaria, and helped restore the water supply for 500,000 people in the city of Beira. In the coming weeks, campaigns were planned around measles vaccination, deworming, and vitamin A boosters. Unicef was also supporting the establishment of several health clinics in resettlement areas.

In Malawi, Unicef was providing water trucks, toilets, and child-friendly spaces for evacuation centres, as well as medicines and mobile clinics, education and recreation kits, volunteer teachers, and child-friendly spaces in evacuation centres. Since the cyclone hit Malawi, Unicef had provided safe water to more than 53,000 people and toilets to over 51,000 people.

In Zimbabwe, Unicef was distributing hygiene kits, rehabilitating water systems, and restoring sanitation facilities; providing vital health and nutrition supplies; and working with partners to deliver psychosocial support to vulnerable children in child-friendly spaces. Unicef had provided over 60,000 people with critical information to prevent waterborne diseases and, starting Monday April 15, would launch a cholera vaccination campaign in partnership with Zimbabwe’s ministry of health and child care and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to protect over 480,000 people.

Unicef had launched an appeal for US122 million to support its humanitarian response for children and families affected by the storm and its aftermath in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi over the next nine months, the statement said.

African News Agency (ANA)