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CHILDREN are at increased risk of violence and disease in the aftermath of extensive flooding in Paraguay, reports children’s charity Plan International.
More than 200,000 people were evacuated after torrential rain caused major floods in June, destroying properties and crops.
Thousands of families continue to live in temporary shelters and may not be able to return to their homes for months, with forecasts suggesting further storms ahead.
Plan is helping to protect and support around 3,600 children in the capital Asuncion by establishing safe spaces where they can access education, arts activities and psychological support.
“Children and adolescents living in temporary housing centres can be exposed to higher levels of violence,” says Juan Manuel Gamarra, Plan’s Emergency Response Manage in Paraguay.
“Conditions in the temporary shelters are cramped, stressed, afford limited security and children can often be left without supervision as their parents or guardians seek ways to provide for the family.
“Disease is also a problem. A large number of people have become ill due to the poor sanitation and the lack of safe water sources,” he adds.
One mother living in a temporary shelter says: “Bathrooms are a big problem. We have around 40 children here who all have to share one bathroom that does not get cleaned very often.”
Plan is appealing for funds to provide health care to many of the families affected.
Concerns are growing over education, with not enough spaces for children caught up in the floods.
There has also been a significant increase in the number of children being forced to live on the streets in some areas.
Tala Budziszewski, who works in disaster response management for Plan in the UK, has recently returned from Paraguay, where she visited those affected.
“Families have now been living for months in unsuitable temporary shelters with limited support, exposing children and adults to various risks ranging from malnutrition to dengue,” she says.
“As the flood waters slowly recede and are likely to rise again, families will need long term aid to withstand the threats they face now and rebuild their destroyed homes,” adds Ms Budziszewski.