24 July 2017

UNICEF helps flood-affected children and families recover from one emergency and prepare for others

Early childhood development centres in Nakhon Si Thammarat receives learning materials and toys from UNICEF

Story by Heamakarn Sricharatchanya

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT, 3 July 2017 – In January 2017, Southern Thailand experienced one of the worst floods to hit the country in 30 years, with more than 1 million people in 5,000 villages in 12 provinces affected.

As the water level peaked, UNICEF staff rushed to the hardest-hit areas to gather information on the situation of children and women. Based on that assessment, UNICEF provided 1.2 million baht to the local Holt Sahathai Foundation to provide around 430 impoverished families a cash grant of 1,200 baht for basic necessities. They also received school bags and school uniforms, including shoes and socks, so children can continue their studies.

A total of 46 early childhood development centres in the affected areas received 5,000 baht each for learning materials—books, blocks, dolls and other toys—that promote children’s intellectual development.

While the floodwaters lingered for more than a week, hundreds of families joined a UNICEF-sponsored training on how to prepare themselves for the next flood and other disaster-related emergencies.

Six residents remember…

Pattama Boonpluek, 32, a mother of four children
“When they announced that the water was coming, I rushed to prepare for it. I collected everything I could gather outside my house and put it all on the balcony. It was raining nonstop. I woke up around midnight, and the water had reached the stairs of my house. Around 2 a.m. they announced that the mosque was open for shelter to those who had to abandon their home. By that time, the water was so high, I didn’t have time to collect anything. I had to wake my children and told them to flee. We had to save our lives first and forget about everything else. It was flooded for seven days, everything was gone—my children’s school shoes floated away with the water. UNICEF gave us 1,200 baht, and I used that money to buy shoes, socks, and more school uniforms for my four children. This money helped me so much. Normally, I earn about 300 baht a day, so I don’t have any money saved for an emergency like this.”

Sompith Krachonwong, 60
“I live in a slum behind the school in the main district in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province. When it rained, the water came in through the back of the house, flooding the whole house. The water level was as high as the height of my granddaughter. The force of the water made the pillars that supported the house slowly collapse. The house was left tilted, and we couldn’t live there anymore. Our mattresses and our cabinets were washed away, so we had to sleep on the street, even when it rained. It was very hard. UNICEF gave us 1,200 baht—I was so happy. I used the money to buy wood and nails to fix the house. We had to collect old wood to support the house. When done, we had 300 baht left, and I bought vegetable seeds. I bought morning glory seeds, Chinese kale seeds and lemon seeds. We also bought an old rug to cover the holes on the floor where we slept. I couldn’t afford to buy wood planks to cover the hole, but I was afraid that a snake or scorpion would creep through it and bite my granddaughter.”

Ratchana Kongkeaw, 32, caretaker of the Tung Poh Early Childhood Development Centre
“The school gets flooded every year. But this year was the worst—the water reached 1.8 metres. The water was trapped and swirled around inside the classroom. The pressure destroyed the walls and doors. Everything inside the classroom was destroyed, all the tables, chairs and learning materials. The school was closed for five days. Parents and children suffered so much from this flood. I came back to check on the condition of the school before the water had completely receded, and I was shocked. There was nothing left inside the classroom, not even a single building block. The water came in because all the doors were destroyed. All the tables and chairs were left soaking in water and were no longer usable. We received help from UNICEF in the form of learning materials, which we used to help improve children’s physical, emotional and social development. We also received educational toys that help improve the overall development of children.”

Suphon Nakkaeo, 43, mother of four children
“My house has been hit by floods several times, but never had the water remained for weeks like this time. I could not go out at all. It was difficult for me, particularly when using the bathroom, which was flooded, too. I have a kidney disease. When the house was flooded, I had to postpone a doctor’s appointment and did dialysis by myself at home. I had to stay on the upper floor of my house with my second child, who has a birth defect. Food was also an issue. My house was waterlogged for five days, so my boyfriend had to take time off from work. I haven’t worked for 10 years now because of my bad health. As for the money support from UNICEF, I spent it on school uniforms for my youngest child, together with the socks, shoes, and on college uniforms for the eldest child.”

Duangphon Phunsan, 34, mother of twins and laundry and ironing service provider
“During the flood, I had to take care of my children and work at the same time. When the floodwater level was rising, I put my babies on the bed, first of all. They were 7 months old at the time. The water came very rapidly; it was terribly frightening. It flew in through the back of my house and caught me off guard. Although my house floods every year, this year a large amount of fast-moving floodwater came in and left me no time to move my things. Everything that was above the previous floodwater levels was flooded this time. The water level this year was high, about half the height of the window. [We had to leave.] My house was flooded for more than a week, which was outrageous. We really had a hard time because we also have both elderly family and children. I returned home after the water receded. Once I opened the door, tears just came down my face. My house had never been like this, with all my belongings floating around the rooms. It was the most severe flooding I had ever experienced. Among the damage were the walls, electric appliances, the washing machine, refrigerator, my work equipment and an ironing board. I spent the money from UNICEF on  new equipment to replace those damaged by the flooding, such as an ironing board and a laundry storage closet. I also had the washing machine fixed. The money support was very important to me because I could not work during the flooding and had to use my savings.”

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