Hurricane Irma: 4m children at risk in storm's path throughout Florida

Less than 24 hours before Hurricane Irma strikes Florida, Save the Children is warning that more than four million children are currently in the storm’s path throughout the state, with millions more at risk in the southeastern United States.

Saturday, 9 September 2017 - 8:34pm

Severe hurricane conditions are expected in southern Florida starting Saturday night. Initial landfall is expected in the Florida Keys by Saturday evening, and then the storm is forecast to roar up the west side of the state, with another landfall possible near Naples or Fort Myers on Sunday. Dangerous winds, flooding and tornadoes are possible, as well as storm surges of up to 15 feet in some communities.

With more than 5.6 million people told to evacuate in Florida, it’s estimated more than one million children have had to flee their homes.

“There are a multitude of risks to children during storms such as Irma—including storm damage, the chance of separation from parents and the psychological impacts of natural disaster,” said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children in the United States.

“We urge parents to do everything they can to help keep their children safe and out of harm’s way, including talking to their children about the storm, filling out an In Case of Emergency card and evacuating to shelters or safer areas when told to do so by authorities.”

A mother of two young children, Katherine Ann from Brandon, Florida told Save the Children staff, “My decision to evacuate my home and move further inland was for my children. I spoke to my 6-year-old about my own memories of hurricanes when I was growing up and answered his questions as truthfully as possible. The hurricane will be loud and scary, but I reminded him that there are caring adults all around to help protect him and his brother.”

Save the Children is mobilising teams and supplies to deploy to Florida in able to reach children and families worst affected by the storm. The children’s organisation has already delivered kits to establish child-friendly areas within shelters, so that children have space to psychologically recover from their ordeal through play. In addition, baby and toddler items such as flat-pack cribs, strollers, baby wash basins and infant hygiene supplies will be available to help families who had to evacuate without much-needed items for their children.

“We still don't know exactly what Irma's impact will be on Florida, but we are preparing for the worst and will respond in any way necessary so children do not suffer," added Miles.

Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit - a surge team of nurses and doctors deployed to the heart of disasters in their critical first stages - is on standby in the Caribbean to help victims of Hurricane Irma. Its Director Unni Krishnan stressed the importance of tackling the underlying causes of storms and hurricanes to reduce their frequency. He said:

“As a humanitarian agency, Save the Children’s priority in the next few days will be to get life-saving aid to areas worst affected by Hurricane Irma, and reach children stranded in remote pockets. But the best way to beat a hurricane is to stop it from happening - and addressing climate change is a key step in reducing the frequency – and ferocity – of storms in the future.

Investing in disaster risk reduction and bolstering the resilience of communities are crucial to break the cycle of disasters and miseries they bring.”

To support Save the Children’s response efforts around Hurricane Irma, please go to INSERT MEMBER WEBITE and donate to our Children’s Emergency Fund.

We have spokespeople available in the United States and elsewhere. For more information and to request interviews, please contact:
Erin Taylor in the US: 
etaylor@savechildren.org / +1 267 250 8829
Sasha Nicholl in the UK: 
S.Nicholl@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 7737 050412
Save the Children’s 24-hour media line: +44(0)7831 650409

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  • According to the Census Bureau, there are more than 20 million people in Florida and 20 percent are children under 18. Approximately 5.5 percent are children under 5.
  • The estimated one million plus children urged to evacuate may still be at risk from Hurricane Irma due to the extreme weather which is forecast to engulf the entire state, evacuation traffic, power outages and many other secondary factors.
  • Following Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Save the Children distributed infant and toddler supplies affected by the storm – including portable cribs and sheets, strollers, baby hygiene kits and portable washbasins.
  • Save the Children continues to operate several Child Friendly Spaces within mega-shelters in Houston. This area serves as a safe, well-supervised, recreational space where children can play, socialize and begin to recover from the disaster, while allowing their parents to concentrate on addressing the family’s immediate and longer-term needs. Of the 1,400 people currently sheltered at the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB), 40 percent are children.
  • Save the Children’s outreach in Texas also includes awarding grants to local community organizations that are already helping the most marginalized children in the Houston area.  Save the Children expects to work with schools and communities over the long term to provide Journey of Hope and other psychosocial support programs such as Healing and Education through the Arts (HEART) and Shelter from the Storm to affected children, parents, teachers and administrators.