MANILA, Philippines -- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and two other non-governmental organizations on Friday expressed concerns on the possible threats and dangers to children in areas devastated by typhoon "Pablo" last week.
UNICEF, Plan International and Save the Children said "silent threats of malnutrition, and abuse and exploitation of vulnerable children" are now imminent.
The three agencies reminded local government and community leaders to keep an eye on child trafficking cases in typhoon-affected areas.
"In this damaged environment, it is particularly important to pay attention to the vulnerability of children. We have seen unscrupulous adults take advantage of these situations in other parts of the world. Through clear information and awareness in communities, we can ensure that we don’t let these children become double victims of their circumstances," UNICEF Philippines Representative Tomoo Hozumi said.
The joint statement also highlighted the dangers brought about by high malnutrition rates in 'Pablo'-hit areas, where malnutrition rates were already above national averages even before the typhoon struck.
Low baseline nutritional levels in the affected areas indicate the possibility that it won’t take long before children may become severely malnourished given the environment of poor water and sanitation, as well as food insecurity, they said.
Hozumi said, "We must not wait for malnutrition to reach dangerous levels, before we act. For young infants, breastfeeding provides all the nutrients needed, as well as offering excellent protection from disease, as the mothers’ immunity is shared with the baby. We urge all agencies working in these communities, in all sectors, to support mothers, and protect their rights to breastfeed their children."
The agencies also stressed the importance of creating "child-friendly spaces where children can play, learn and socialize to regain a sense of normalcy and childhood – essential for their psychological recovery from the disaster."