Tag Archives: emergency response

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Dominica struggles to recover from devastating storm Erika

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View of the Macoucherie river in Dominica after the Tropical Storm Erika Photo: Courtesy of Prime Minister of Dominica

The night of 26 August began as any other night for Mary Fontaine, her husband and their two children. The family live in the south-eastern community of Petite Savanne, in Dominica, a 290 sq. mile island country in the eastern Caribbean.

The Fontaines were aware of the weather forecast – which had warned of showers associated with Tropical Storm Erika, and Mary secured the family home. Such weather systems are common during Atlantic hurricane season – Erika would be the fifth tropical storm of the 2015 season. The island was at the height of a drought, and Mary was prepared for these much-needed showers.

But the more than 71,000 residents of this small, mountainous island were not prepared for the rain that pounded Dominica for 12 hours on Thursday 27 August, as Erika made its slow exit. All told, 12.64 inches of rain fell in that short period.

Disruption
As morning broke across Dominica, the full scale of the devastation became apparent. Landslides and rock falls had covered villages and blocked major roads. More than 12 major rivers had broken their banks, causing severe flooding and taking out vital bridges, disrupting water, electricity and telecommunication services.

Links with the outside world were cut, as flood waters and debris covered the tarmac at the main commercial airport in the east of the country, as well as the smaller landing strip in the capital, Roseau.

“I was roused from my sleep, and, when I got outside, it was just water, water, water everywhere,” recalls Mary. “I’ve been here all my life but never saw anything like this. It was disaster all around.” She frantically tried to account for family members who live in neighbouring houses.

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Mary Fontaine (left) who lives in the south-eastern community of Petite Savanne in Dominica survived tropical storm Erika. Her brother and his two sons are missing. © UNICEF Eastern Caribbean/2015/B.Henry

Devastation
Petite Savanne was hit hard. The community is home to 753 people. Eleven of the 20 confirmed dead and 21 of the 35 residents reported missing call that ravaged district home.  Among the missing are Mary’s brother and his two sons. Her niece was located, safe.

Devastation in the close-knit community is so widespread that the government has declared Petite Savanne and eight other communities special disaster areas. A decision was later taken to evacuate Petite Savanne and three other affected communities. All but a handful of residents in the communities have now said farewell to their homes.

Long-time resident of Petite Savanne Urban Baron described the scene as “worse than a war zone”.

“More than 50 houses were on the verge of collapse, and there were landslides everywhere,” said Urban. He described people digging through mud to free those who had been trapped under fallen houses. In many cases, the only tools were their bare hands.

Recovery
The road to recovery for Mary and the other residents of Petite Savanne – and the nearly 17,000 other residents of the island who have been affected severely by the storm – will be long and uncertain. Roads and bridges will be repaired, but emotional scars may run deep, in the island dubbed the ‘nature isle’ of the Caribbean.

The government has appealed for international assistance, and pledges are coming in.

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Supplies provided by UNICEF being packed in Barbados to be brought to Dominica. © UNICEF Eastern Caribbean/2015/D.Williams

UNICEF has so far dispatched 4,000 water purification tablets, more than 500 boxes of adult hygiene kits and 100 infant hygiene kits to the most affected areas. The organization is currently working with the Ministry of Education to ascertain the extent of damage to the education sector, ahead of the scheduled 7 September start of the school year.

Patrick Knight is UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Communication Specialist

UNICEF Nepal National Ambassador Ani Choying Drolma (center) and radio anchor Ram Abiral (left) interact with child guest Subhakar Chaulagain (right) during live programming of Bhandai Sundai radio programme. Photo by Chandra Shekhar for UNICEF.

Radio brings innovative counselling to post-earthquake Nepal

Chiranjibi Adhikari with his injured 6-year-old son, Kritagya, speaks with a psychosocial counsellor live via his mobile telephone, during a segment of the UNICEF-supported Bhandai Sundai (Saying Listening) radio programme. Photo by Kiran Panday for UNICEF.

Chiranjibi Adhikari with his injured 6-year-old son, Kritagya, speaks with a psychosocial counsellor live via his mobile telephone, during a segment of the UNICEF-supported Bhandai Sundai (Saying Listening) radio programme. Photo by Kiran Panday for UNICEF.

When we met six-year-old Kritagya Adhikari lying on a mattress with a broken arm bandaged and slung over his shoulder, he was still writhing in pain. He had injured himself after he fell down near his house during a brief aftershock of 4.2 magnitude on 7 May in Nilkantha Municipality. The Municipality lies in a remote corner of the heavily dilapidated Dhading district, 100 kilometres west of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.

Kritagya has been living in fear ever since he saw houses crumble and people get injured during the first 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 25 April.

“This time, he panicked even more and ran so much in fear,” his father Chiranjibi Adhikari told us at the UNICEF-provided medical tent set up within the premises of the district hospital, which was heavily packed with patients and medical workers.

Chiranjibi is more worried about his son’s state of mind than his arm injury and that was our major concern as well. As we sat near Kritagya, he just looked blankly at us and he neither smiled nor wanted to speak. He had a very low morale and wanted to be left alone.

This was one of the many trips that my colleague and photojournalist Kiran Panday and I had made in the earthquake-affected Nepali towns and villages for UNICEF exploring the situation of children and women during the aftermath of the disaster as well as the impact of UNICEF’s support in the earthquake affected districts.

Kritagya was really the first child that we had met who seemed extremely demoralized. Most children we’d met children usually smiled and posed for photos and also ushered us around their dilapidated homes and schools. We had also noticed the positive energy of their parents that seemed to have a direct influence on those children.

But we could see that the parent in Chiranjibi struggled to deal with his traumatized son. He seemed very stressed himself in helping his family deal with the calamity and in trying to rebuild their home that had turned to rubble.

We could feel his despair and decided to call UNICEF communications team for advice. The team asked us to link Chiranjibi up with UNICEF’s recently launched radio program Bhandai Sundai (Saying Listening). The afternoon slot, which was focused on psychosocial counseling for earthquake-affected children, was about to go live in five minutes. We immediately called the radio anchor, who agreed to put Chiranjibi on air.

After a very quick explanation, Chiranjibi was also ready to speak with a psychologist about his son’s condition.

UNICEF Nepal National Ambassador Ani Choying Drolma (center) and radio anchor Ram Abiral (left) interact with child guest Subhakar Chaulagain (right) during live programming of Bhandai Sundai radio programme. Photo by Chandra Shekhar for UNICEF.

UNICEF Nepal National Ambassador Ani Choying Drolma (center) and radio anchor Ram Abiral (left) interact with child guest Subhakar Chaulagain (right) during live programming of Bhandai Sundai radio programme. Photo by Chandra Shekhar for UNICEF.

“I am worried that my son panics even if there is slight shaking,” he said on air. He explained how other parents like him were becoming helpless to calm their panicky children in his village.

The psychologist responded to Chiranjibi saying that parents and guardians should ensure that children understand that aftershocks are normal after a big earthquake and that children need to be occupied with games and child-friendly group activities to promote interaction among other children.

His father’s conversation with the anchor seemed to rouse Kritagya’s interest too. He crept closer to his father to listen to what the psychologist was saying.

Satisfied with the anchor’s response, and his son’s reaction, Chiranjibi said that he hoped that the unique radio programme would “reach the millions of other parents who constantly suffer like me worrying about their children affected by earthquake.”

“I feel good now,” he told us, looking slightly relieved.

This brief encounter with Kritagya and Chiranjibi made me realize that in its own way the radio programme is making a positive impact on the earthquake-affected people in Nepal. Now, wherever I go, I make sure that I share about this unique programme so that each and every child, woman and family can get out of the trauma that the earthquake has brought upon us in Nepal.

Naresh Newar, based in Kathmandu, is a journalist with more than 16 years of experience of reporting on humanitarian issues with special focus on rights of children and women. He works as a correspondent for IRIN News, Inter Press Service News and Nepali Times.

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Nepal earthquake: a sleepless night in the aftermath 

 

Displaced families gather in an open field following the 7.9 earthquake in Nepal. (C)UNICEF Nepal/2015/Rupa Joshi

Displaced families gather in an open field following the earthquake in Nepal. (C)UNICEF Nepal/2015/Rupa Joshi

Last night was a sleepless one for most people in Kathmandu. It was for me. Sleep does not come easily when the earth shakes violently every now and then. Sometimes it starts with a gentle rocking, followed by the strange noises that homes make when an earthquake rolls in.


At other times, we feel violent shakes that seem capable of uprooting the house, trees, anything. It was this kind of strong shaking that jolted us early this morning.  And then in the afternoon the earth shook again violently, with such ferocity that it was hard to remain standing.

Making my way to the UNICEF office later in the day, I passed a field where displaced families have gathered. There seem to be more people there than yesterday. It looks almost like a tented city.

I think everyone is experiencing some level of shock.


Rupa Joshi is a communication officer with UNICEF in Nepal. Read the latest news note from UNICEF on the situation in Nepal here.


Children in Nepal need your help. Please donate what you can today.

©UNICEF/ NYHQ2015-0523/Sokhin

Photo of the Week: Vanuatu’s ‘10,000 in 10’ campaign

©UNICEF/ NYHQ2015-0523/Sokhin

©UNICEF/ NYHQ2015-0523/Sokhin

Vanuatu, 2015: Tropical Cyclone Pam, which hit on 13 March, has disrupted access to safe water and sanitation in the South Pacific island nation, increasing children’s risk of water- and vector-borne diseases.

The ‘10,000 in 10’ campaign, launched on 18 March, aims to immunize 10,000 children 6 to 59 months of age against measles and rubella, in 21 villages over a period of 10 days.

In this photo, children near the shore in Port Vila watch a boat further out that is taking an immunization team to a nearby island.

To see more images from UNICEF visit UNICEF Photography.

You can also see the latest photos on the UNICEF Photo app

On 16 January, arriving families wait in line for access to basic health services at the Sekeni II camp for people displaced by the flooding in Chikhwawa District.

Stepping up efforts for Malawi flood victims

Working with UNICEF in emergency situations always brings new learning. Yesterday was no exception – don’t stand close to a helicopter when it is taking off from a dusty field. Failing to follow the local crowd of onlookers who swiftly disappeared as soon as the blades began to rotate, I was left covered in dust – and will remember to pay keener attention in future.

I’m in the most southerly district of Malawi, one of the poorest countries in Southern Africa, to assist with the response to the floods that have affected 15 districts in the country. Flooding has submerged villages; wiped away homes, crops and livestock; and left around 120,000 people displaced. The helicopters are playing a crucial role, as today, two weeks after the heavy rains fell, there are still 26,000 people marooned in an area cut off from land access.

On 16 January, arriving families wait in line for access to basic health services at the Sekeni II camp for people displaced by the flooding in Chikhwawa District.

On 16 January, arriving families wait in line for access to basic health services at the Sekeni II camp for people displaced by the flooding in Chikhwawa District. © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0049/van de Merwe

UNICEF has managed to deliver some of our Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) supplies for treating diarrhoea and dehydration in young children. Whilst we await our new cargo to arrive from the capital, Lilongwe, we have tapped into supplies positioned in previous years to treat cholera outbreaks and other emergencies. ORS is effective but needs clean, safe water too, and that is another concern. With only two army helicopters and one army boat operating, not enough is getting through.

As another helicopter lands and I meet some of the joint UN team who have been doing an aerial assessment of the marooned villages. They are concerned, especially at the lack of clean water sources and shelter. The urgent need for more air and water transport occupies them all, and they rush off back to the central office to see how helicopters and boats can be swiftly shipped in.

Larry Nkhani, headmaster of Bangula School. (c) UNICEF Malawi

Larry Nkhani, Principal of Bangula School. (c) UNICEF Malawi

The good news here – and there isn’t much – is that the water is receding. When I flew over the affected area 4 days ago, it was a vast shimmering mass of water, punctuated occasionally by a rooftop or washed out bridge. Today there are clear signs that the water is going down. And yet at Bangula Primary School more and more people continue to arrive.

“This is supposed to be a place of learning, but for the last two weeks it has become a huge centre of refuge,” says Larry Nkhani, Principal of Bangula Primary. The camp first had a few hundred survivors, but today numbers have swelled to over four thousand. The classrooms are overcrowded and the toilets are over-used.

Latrines are being constructed as quickly as possible.  (c) UNICEF Malawi

Latrines are being constructed as quickly as possible. (c) UNICEF Malawi

Crowded conditions, stagnant water and a lack of sanitation facilities can be a deadly mix for young children vulnerable to diarrhoea and water-borne diseases. Luckily UNICEF has partnered with Goal Malawi who were already active in the district building latrines in schools. They switched their focus to temporary latrines in the camps and within two days had mobilised materials and labour.

Visiting another centre in the neighbouring district of Chikwawa, we met up with the Goal team. And as we talked the toilets were literally assembled before our eyes. Pretty impressive. As we toured the school the latrines were literally constructed before our eyes.

And this is again one of the inspiring things about disaster response. Many of those involved in the response move mountains to get things done fast. Having these latrines completed in two days, with handwashing stations and clean water, will help prevent disease outbreaks and hopefully enable families to rebuild their lives faster.

And that’s critical to ensure that Malawi doesn’t feel the pain of these floods, long after the waters have gone.

Angela Travis is the Chief of Communication at UNICEF Malawi. 

Find out what supplies UNICEF has delivered to Malawi following the flooding.

 

Sheltering under the desks during an earthquake drill at Muhammadiyah 1 Primary School in Banda Aceh. New school buildings were designed to be earthquake resistant and equipped with desks with thick wooden surfaces bolted to metal legs. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

Ten years after the tsunami – the benefits of building back better

Picture this: It’s a Sunday in late December. You’re woken by a strong earthquake early in the morning and you know something is wrong. Soon, you’re running from the waters of a tsunami that’s flattening almost everything in its wake. You reach the top of a hill, along with others some of whom have been injured in the scramble to escape the water.

Looking back at the town of Banda Aceh below you, you see a picture of devastation. Trees, houses and roads have been washed away. Debris is piled everywhere – sheet metal, rubble, branches….and bodies. You’ve lost everything and you have no idea if or how your family members have survived. All infrastructure is gone. It suddenly occurs to you – I’ve survived this disaster, but what am I going to drink, eat? Where am I going to sleep?

The Indian Ocean tsunami which struck Banda Aceh ten years ago, on the 26th of December 2004, killed an estimated 170,000 people on this northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra island. It also left tens of thousands more without food, clothing or shelter.

Sheltering under the desks during an earthquake drill at Muhammadiyah 1 Primary School in Banda Aceh. New school buildings were designed to be earthquake resistant and equipped with desks with thick wooden surfaces bolted to metal legs. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

Sheltering under the desks during an earthquake drill at Muhammadiyah Primary School in Banda Aceh. New school buildings were designed to be earthquake-resistant and equipped with desks with thick wooden surfaces bolted to metal legs. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

The Muhammadiyah Primary School in Banda Aceh suffered terribly on that day – the original school buildings were destroyed by the tsunami and only 17 of its 300 pupils survived that day.The school buildings were semi-permanent structures made of concrete and wood that would often let in the rain. The desks and chairs had been made from thin plywood.

UNICEF vowed to ‘Build Back Better’ to ensure that a new Muhammadiyah school would be able to withstand future natural disasters.

After the tsunami, engineers designed new school buildings to be earthquake-proof, with deeper foundations and stronger support systems. The desks now have thick wooden surfaces bolted to metal legs.

“We feel very comfortable now knowing that the children are more secure,” says Ibu Zahariah, the head teacher.

Muhammadiyah primary school became the blueprint for more than 300 schools that UNICEF rebuilt in Aceh province after the tsunami.

Students also regularly practice their earthquake drill. When the alarm sounds, they drop to the floor and shelter under their desks, away from the danger of glass windows. They know when the shaking has stopped they must go outside.

During the drill, they pour out of their classrooms into the central yard where they line up in groups and their teachers count them. They also know basic first aid, and where to find stretchers to assist friends that may have been injured.

Students protect themselves head with a bag overhead during an earthquake drill at Muhammadiyah 1 Primary school in Banda Aceh. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

Students protect themselves with their schoolbags during an earthquake drill at Muhammadiyah Primary School in Banda Aceh. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

11-year-old maths-whizz Nasywa Zulkarmain knows all about the tsunami from her parents and older siblings. The family survived by jumping in their car and driving to higher ground.

“I’m afraid of earthquakes,” says the grade 6 pupil who was just one-year-old when the tsunami struck. “But I also know what to do,” she says.

Head teacher Ibu Zahariah was devastated in 2004 when so many of her pupils died in the tsunami. Now she knows children like Nasywa will have a much better chance of survival if another tsunami strikes Banda Aceh.

“I don’t think the children would panic,” she says. “It’s a relief to know that they’re prepared and they would be able to protect themselves.”

UNICEF has worked hard not just to rebuild infrastructure but to build that infrastructure back better. Ten years later, projects which UNICEF started up during our humanitarian response to the tsunami are still benefiting the community.

A longer version of this post originally appeared here.

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Photo of the Week: A brutal Kurdish winter

© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-3159/Anmar

© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-3159/Anmar

Children displaced by conflict to Kurdistan Region of Iraq – which experiences the country’s coldest temperatures – face the deadly threat of exposure to frigid winds and freezing rain. With just 52 per cent of overall funding secured so far, nearly 250,000 children will likely go without warm clothing.

In the photo, a UNICEF-supported distribution of essential winter supplies to displaced children in the mountainous Penjaween area in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, takes place on a snowy day.

To see more images from UNICEF visit UNICEF Photography.

You can also see the latest photos on the UNICEF Photo app

Mr. Lake (second from left) speaks with the caretaker of a malnourished child whom she has accompanied to the camp’s hospital.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0986/Campeanu

South Sudan: A country falling into famine

As rain bombarded the tens of thousands of people who continue to seek safety in a UN camp in Malakal, most hurried to their plastic sheeting homes. The people of this ransacked city – and their fellow citizens across conflict-affected South Sudan – have been under attack since conflict broke out in December. First it was the mortars, then the looting, then more violence, then cholera, and now: torrential rains, and in the words of UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, “looming famine.”

Walking through knee deep mud in the desperately overcrowded camp, Mr. Lake went from feeding centre, to emergency nutrition ward, and then from house to house. He travelled with World Food Programme’s Executive Director, Ms. Ertharin Cousin.

Mr. Lake (second from left) speaks with the caretaker of a malnourished child whom she has accompanied to the camp’s hospital. © UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0986/WFP Campeanu

Mr. Lake (second from left) speaks with the caretaker of a malnourished child whom she has accompanied to the camp’s hospital.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0986/WFP Campeanu

“It’s as bad as anything I have ever seen,” said Mr. Lake. In parts the camp looked liked a cyclone had been through – chairs and beds floating in the flood water; families’ lone possessions sunken in green sludge. There is intractable maddening mud everywhere.

As a result, children face disease at every corner, which in turn makes them at greater risk of malnutrition. And beyond those in the camp in Malakal, are more than 500,000 more who fled violence and are on the run across their country.

Mr. Lake and Ms. Cousin said they fear the world is allowing a repeat of what occurred in Somalia and the Horn of Africa just three years ago, when early warnings of extreme hunger and escalating malnutrition went largely unheeded until official famine levels were announced.

Nearly one million children under five years old in South Sudan will require treatment for acute malnutrition in 2014, according to UNICEF and WFP. The numbers are immense; Mr. Lake saw that each wears the face of a child. “There were children I saw today suffering from severe acute malnutrition who I thought clearly would not survive tomorrow,” he said. “For these children whether or not a famine is declared is immaterial. The world should not wait for a famine to be announced while children here are dying each and every day.”

(Background, left to right) WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and a UNICEF worker meet with a woman and girl in their temporary shelter, at a UN camp in Malakal. © UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0985/WFP Campeanu

(Background, left to right) WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and a UNICEF worker meet with a woman and girl in their temporary shelter, in a UN camp in Malakal.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0985/WFP Campeanu

UNICEF’s response to the crisis has reached more than 40,000 children with severe acute malnutrition, around 500,000 with water and sanitation, and vaccinated hundreds of thousands. Given the severity of the situation for the children of South Sudan, all life-saving support must be expanded.

“I talked to two doctors in the clinic in the camp,” said Mr Lake, “and they said they were making a terrible calculation: they can start to cut back now on the medicine they are giving to their patients because they don’t know whether they will have supplies in month or two; or they can give the can give the patients everything they need now and pray that they get more supplies in a month or two. As I looked around the tent and looked at the patients, I realized they only have one choice – the one that they are making – which is to continue to do everything they can now and just hope for the best.”

With the doctors’ drive, and hope, UNICEF will continue to broaden its rapid response air missions to the remotest parts of the conflict zones, seeking to save the tens of thousands of child lives at risk, all the time stressing that leaders must find peace for the children of South Sudan.

“We all have to do more,” said Mr Lake, “and quickly, to keep more children alive.”

James Elder is UNICEF’s Chief of Communication for East & Southern Africa. He is presently in South Sudan.

Children displaced by recent fighting in South Sudan stand outside a tented school run by UNICEF, in the town of Mingkaman, where humanitarian assistance is being provided. The tent bears the UNICEF logo.

430,000 children uprooted in South Sudan

Nyatut* fled her village in South Sudan two months ago. Armed men burnt her home and killed her mother.

From Syria to Central Africa Republic to South Sudan, those reporting on atrocities have communicated them so often that their vileness risks being diluted. And so it is worth repeating: Nyatut, 13 years old, with a penchant for maths, saw her mother murdered.

“We heard the shooting and my mother screamed for us to go,” Nyatut tells me. “I went under my bed for my bag that has a book and pens in it. Then I ran outside to my mother. A man was standing in front of her, with his gun pointed at her…”

Nyatut’s voice trails off. There is no point in going further.

Children displaced by recent fighting in South Sudan stand outside a tented school run by UNICEF, in the town of Mingkaman, where humanitarian assistance is being provided. The tent bears the UNICEF logo.

Over 400,000 boys and girls have fled their homes, seeking to escape the violence in South Sudan. ©UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0365/Holt

Psychologists have written books about how such an event traumatises a young mind; aid workers will tell you how in circumstances like this, that young mind doesn’t have a moment to mourn her mother’s death. If Nyatut had paused, she too would have been shot. So she ran. And she ran. Along with hundreds of others, they escaped into the bush. Their days were dominated by hunger and hopelessness.

The United Nations estimates there are hundreds of thousands of children like Nyatut who are in urgent need of assistance in South Sudan, since fighting broke out in the world’s newest nation, in December.

Horrendous violence has turned the lives of millions upside down as their livelihoods have been broken, livestock scattered, households looted and markets destroyed. As a result, the youngest citizens of the world’s newest nation are on the verge of a nutrition crisis – 740,000 children under the age of five are at high risk of food insecurity. Many are already resorting to eating so-called “famine foods” – wild foods such as bulbs and grasses.

Despite the signing of an agreement to cease hostilities at the end of January, there have been heavy clashes and reports of people being killed in churches and hospitals in the northern town of Malakal in February. Schools have been used by both sides. Children are being recruited.

The people of South Sudan strived and struggled for many years to control their own destiny; and yet now they suffer again. Peace remains elusive, yet essential for the children of this nascent republic.

It is within this context that the UN says almost one million people have been uprooted. The grisly numbers go on and on. Until one statistic makes even the hardest heart pause: 430,000 boys and girls have fled their homes, seeking to escape the violence in South Sudan. Nyatut and a staggering 429,999 other children.

Now, in a race against time, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) have set up emergency distribution points in previously inaccessible parts of the country.

The new strategy is a complex one. It’s difficult to deliver aid in times of conflict; all the more so in a country that in peacetime was critically short of infrastructure. A few UNICEF and WFP staff were flown to remote areas across South Sudan, myself included, carrying their own water, food and tents. They contend with insecurity, malaria and guinea worm (a parasite found in the water, which grows up to a metre in the body, before burrowing out of the skin, one year later).

Helicopters and cargo planes lead with air drops, in 50 degree (Celsius) temperatures. The food drop zones require four football fields of land to be cleared with matches and machetes; hundreds of tons of supplies that can’t be dropped from the air have had to be unloaded and distributed with no fuel for vehicles on the ground. But it is happening.

“Children and families in South Sudan are facing unprecedented suffering – with grave signs of worsening malnutrition and disease outbreaks,” said UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch. “With the rainy season looming we have to seize every opportunity to rapidly deploy teams and life-saving supplies to the hardest to reach. This is how we will avert a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Twenty-two such missions are planned over the next month, covering swathes of the country and seeking to support as many as a quarter of a million people. WFP drops food, whilst UNICEF distributes water and sanitation kits to families; delivers ready to use therapeutic foods and medicines, sets up temporary classrooms, and registers and supports separated children. That is how I met Nyatut.

“This is the only t-shirt I have left,” she tells me. “My mother gave it to me for my twelfth birthday. It is all I have to wear … and all I have to remember her.”

The t-shirt reads ‘I Love South Sudan’.

*name changed

UNICEF has appealed for US$75 million to meet the needs of South Sudan’s displaced during the first six months of 2014, with an urgent response needed so that supplies can be pre-positioned ahead of the rainy season that will make many of the roads in the country impassable.

James Elder is UNICEF’s head of communication for East & Southern Africa. He is presently in South Sudan. This post originally appeared on HuffPost Impact.