Vernesha and her 3-week-old baby niece, Joy, are
staying at a shelter in Baton Rouge after being driven from their home by
rising floodwaters on Saturday, Aug. 13. They live together with Joy’s mother
and two older sisters in an apartment that is now underwater. Photo by Stuart
Sia / Save the Children.
Gulf Coast Floods Children's Relief Fund
Save the Children is Bringing the Healing Power of Play to Shelters
Tanya Weinberg 202.247.6610
Baton Rouge, LA (August 17, 2016) — Thousands of Louisiana children who have lost homes, belongings and their sense of security are in need of urgent assistance to protect their emotional and developmental wellbeing, Save the Children said.
"Thousands of children have been ripped from the lives they knew, and they have no idea what the future may hold," said Sarita Fritzler, Save the Children’s emergency team leader. "We know that loss and displacement during disasters can affect children’s mental health for years to come, and it’s essential that we offer kids a chance to be kids again as soon as possible."
Current sheltering conditions for more than 8,000 people can be especially challenging for families with young children, with shortages of cribs, changing stations, family spaces and private spaces for nursing at some locations putting children’s wellbeing at risk. Save the Children is working with the state of Louisiana and local partners, including the Red Cross, to address these needs and create safe spaces specifically for children.
Today, Save the Children will open its first Child-Friendly Space in the Lamar Dixon Expo Center shelter, run by the American Red Cross. With the support from generous donors, the organization also hopes to open more in the coming days.
Child-Friendly Spaces offer children a safe place to play, express themselves and begin processing a variety of distressing experiences. These spaces also give families a protected environment to leave their children as they register for assistance and go about the business of rebuilding their lives.
"We need help to reach more of the thousands of children in need and to support their families’ recovery," Fritzler said. "Offering children a safe place to play, not only allows them to have much-needed fun again, it helps them heal and build their resiliency. They will need that to bounce back from the devastation of these floods."
Save the Children is also distributing portable cribs, clothing and hygiene items to support displaced families in meeting the unique needs of children affected by the flooding. Shelter populations are expected to grow as families who temporarily stayed with others need longer-term housing solutions.
More than 20,000 people have been rescued and at least 10 deaths have been confirmed as a result of severe flooding that hit southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi over the weekend. Both Louisiana and Mississippi are under a state of emergency. Numerous schools are closed, homes and buildings are destroyed and roads and bridges are impassable.
Save the Children has responded to children’s needs in emergencies around the world for nearly a century. Since mounting a major response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Save the Children has served more than 1 million U.S. children affected by disaster.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.