Hurricane Irma is continuing to tear a deadly path through the Caribbean, causing widespread destruction and reducing buildings to rubble.
More than 10.5 million children live in the countries that are likely to be exposed to the damage from Hurricane Irma, according to the Unicef.
Children in the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba are at risk, including over 3 million under 5 years old, are currently at risk, it said.
Unicef spokesman Patrick Knight, said: “Our priority is to reach all those children and families in the affected communities as soon as possible.”
Early estimates suggest 74,000 people, including 20,000 children, have been effective in the Caribbean so far.
Unicef says its immediate concern is providing drinking water and sanitation to affected communities, as well providing child protection services for both children and adolescents, including psycho-social support for those affected.
Florida is on high alert for the expected arrival of the Atlantic’s most deadly storm in history, which has already left at least 10 people dead and thousands homeless.
Hurricane Irma Latest Updates and news.
The United Nations estimates that up to 37 million people could be affected by the category five hurricane, which is sustaining winds of 180mph as it moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday.
On the small island of Barbuda, the category five hurricane destroyed nearly all buildings and left it “barely habitable” after striking in the early hours of Wednesday.
Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Barbuda, said the island is “literally rubble” amid scenes of “total carnage”. He added: “The entire housing stock was damaged. It is just total devastation.”
Officials warned that the island of Saint-Martin is “almost destroyed”. The death toll is expected to rise on both islands.
Millions of children in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are vulnerable to the impact of Irma as it heads northwest, according to the Save the Children.
In the Dominican Republic, its emergency teams are working with armed forces and the police to evacuate civilians across 17 provinces in the north and east. In a press release it said:
It’s believed up to 3 million people are affected – some 40 percent of whom live in poverty. With designated shelters able to accommodate just 900,000 people, emergency response teams are now turning to churches, schools and community centres as alternatives …
Even if the storm doesn’t directly hit, we are likely to see heavy rains, extreme winds and possibly flooding.
Haiti too is bracing itself for the worst, less than one year since Hurricane Matthew wrought havoc on the country, killing more than 800 people and crippling infrastructure. Save the Children is also closely monitoring the storm as it makes a projected turn toward the continental United States where evacuations have been ordered to start in the coming hours.