UNICEF provides drought aid to Marshall IslandsWednesday May 15, 2013 - 22:43 EST
The UN children's fund UNICEF has joined the Marshallese Government in providing emergency assistance to the nation's severely drought-affected areas.
More than 5,000 people in the north of Marshall Islands have limited access to clean and safe drinking water, proper sanitation and nutritious food.
The emergency response is focusing attention on health and hygiene with reports of an increase in diarrhoea and other infections among children.
UNICEF's Pacific chief Samantha Cocco-Klein has told Radio Australia's the lack of clean water is making it easy for infections to spread.
"What we are seeing is an early spike in diarrhoea, gastritis, hepatitis and other infections of that sort...half the cases are children for diarrhoea and other infections," she said.
"The idea for us is to get in early before there are any deaths."
UNICEF has shared radio messages that advise the affected communities to wash hands, boil all drinking water, avoid eating spoiled food and exclusively breastfeed infants under six-months old.
"The first line (of defence) is in the home, when a child gets sick, that the parents know how to start treating [diarrhoea]," she said.
"The next line... is that they seek medical attention as soon as possible, and that medical providers have the necessary equipment including syringes and oral rehydration therapy."
Emergency supplies such as hygiene kits, water quality testing kits and oral rehydration salts have been delivered to the government.
"The atolls are spread out over a huge area and this has been the real challenge for the government," Ms Cocco-Klein said.
"They have been responding since January at huge cost...and they're running out of resources to respond and to keep supplying the island."
The Marshallese Government declared a state of emergency for the northern islands and atolls last month.
© ABC 2013
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