Estimated 19 million children in India and Bangladesh faced "imminent risk" from flash flooding and heavy rain when Cyclone Amphan made landfall in West Bengal, the UN's children agency UNICEF warned on Wednesday.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm Amphan made landfall between Digha of West Bengal and Hatiya Islands of Bangladesh on Wednesday, leaving a trail of destruction. At least ten persons were killed in India and seven in Bangladesh.
"West Bengal, home to more than 50 million people, including over 16 million children, is expected to take a direct hit from the powerful storm," the UN agency said in a statement on Wednesday.
UNICEF also added that Covid-19 could deepen the humanitarian consequences of Cyclone Amphan in both countries. Evacuees who have moved to crowded temporary shelters would be especially vulnerable to the spread of respiratory diseases like Covid-19, as well as other infections.
"We continue to monitor the situation closely. The safety of children and their families in the areas that will be impacted is a priority and it is good to see that the authorities have planned their urgent response factoring in the on-going Covid-19 pandemic," UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Jean Gough said on Thursday, before the storm made landfall.
Across the region, UNICEF is working closely with the governments of Bangladesh and India and stands ready to support humanitarian operations to reach children and families affected by Cyclone Amphan.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said at the daily press briefing that UN teams on the ground continue to work with the Government of Bangladesh to prepare and support those in need in the wake of the cyclone.
Given the current pandemic, this support includes distributing personal protective equipment, disinfectants and other materials to evacuation shelters. To reduce the person-to-person contact during the delivery of aid, e-cash distributions will be used, he said adding that the UN along with its partners is mobilising more than 1,700 mobile health teams and preparing for emergency food deliveries.
The Super Cyclone has ravaged through West Bengal creating havoc in the southern districts of the state. The storm washed away bridges connecting Indian islands to the mainland and uprooting trees and electricity poles in six-and-a-half hours of monstrous fury that left Kolkata and most of south Bengal pulverised.