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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
UN warns of deaths in Bangladesh
Children in Bangladesh
Millions of Bangladeshis including children now rely on food handouts
Bangladeshi children and women face acute malnutrition after devastating floods, the UN has warned.

The UN said that without intervention, the number of malnourished children in areas affected by floods could rise to one million within six to eight weeks.

"We are taking immediate steps," a UN Children's Fund (Unicef) official said.

In July, Bangladesh experienced its worst floods for six years, which left 600 people dead. The country was hit by another deluge of rain in September.

'Many may die'

Unicef spokeswoman Harriet Torleffe said that 15% of children up to five years old had been affected by the floods, which had left them in a "terrible position".

Floods in Dhaka
30m displaced or made homeless this year
More than 100,000 affected by water borne diseases
Estimated to have cost around $7bn worth of damage
At least 700 killed

In an interview with the BBC Bengali service, she warned that unless the government and the international community took action over the next two months, the number of children severely affected could approach one million.

"If action is not taken immediately, many will die," she said.

Both Unicef and the World Food Programme (WFP) have warned almost from the outset of the flooding that the period after the water recedes is the most dangerous.

That is when younger people in particular are more susceptible to waterborne diseases and when parents go without food because crops have been washed away.

More malnutrition

More than 100,000 people were affected by waterborne diseases in the aftermath of July's floods.

The government estimated they caused around $7bn of damage.

The UN says that poor sanitation and loss of family income have also contributed to increase the level of malnutrition among children.

The WFP and Unicef say they are working together to make sure nutritional supplements and extra food reach young children and breastfeeding or pregnant women.

The UN has described this year's floods as a "quiet disaster".

The BBC's Roland Buerk
"The UN calls this a quiet disaster"

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