Babies and Children After Hurricane Katrina

Kids and Hurricane Katrina

The Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina.
A volunteer at a shelter with information about Lost Children after Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images

Many people were affected by the Hurricane Katrina disaster, some tremendously, and others in very small and indirect ways.

It is hard to imagine someone being affected in a more direct way than having a baby and then being separated from your baby during Hurricane Katrina, or simply getting separated from your children during the evacuation of a disaster.

Hurricane Katrina Statistics

Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest and costliest storms to ever hit the United States, made landfall in New Orleans in August 2005.

Statistics about Hurricane Katrina include that:

  • at least 1,245 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina, either during the storm itself in the flooding that followed
  • Hurricane Katrina caused just over $100 billion in property damages, although the total economic impact is thought to be closer to $150 billion
  • over one million people were displaced from the Gulf Coast because of the storm, many going to Houston, Texas; Mobile, Alabama; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, etc., resulting in the largest migration of people in the US since the Dust Bowl
  • 140 babies, many premature, were evacuated from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, La
  • many other babies were transported to Dallas, Ft. Worth, and other parts of the country
  • at least one pregnant mother in New Orleans had to wade through three-foot high water while carrying her nine-month-old infant when she went into labor
  • many families were separated as they were taken to different shelters, sometimes in different states, and some of these children are too young to know their names and family photographs, which could be used to help ID lost children, were lost in the flooding
  • there is one unconfirmed report of someone choosing 'Katrina' as the baby name for their baby born during the hurricane
  • over 300,000 evacuated children are being enrolled in school districts from Arizona to Pennsylvania, including almost 19,000 who will be attending school in Texas, although some children missed months or even years of school

    And unbelievably, "Despite harrowing circumstances, every NICU patient at University Hospital during Hurricane Katrina survived the storm and the evacuation process." This is despite the fact that two of the sickest babies had to be transferred to another hospital "through floodwaters via canoe and then fire truck."

    Lost Children of Katrina

    The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, in an effort to find and reunite Hurricane victims in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, set up a Katrina Missing Persons Hotline and a website at missingkids.com.

    Fortunately, as of March 22, 2006, the last of the 5,192 kids on the Hurricane Katrina missing persons list, was found. This list had included children that were either missing or looking for their parents.

    What would you do if your child was missing after a disaster?

    The Unaccompanied Minors Registry is a free tool "for reporting children displaced during a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado or terrorist attack." It can help families get reunited in an emergency or natural disaster.

    If you locate an unaccompanied minor, after calling your local law enforcement agency, you can also help them get reunited by reporting the child's information to the Unaccompanied Minors Registry.

    Young Children After Katrina

    Many people got help during and after Katrina in big shelters, like the Astrodome in Houston or Reunion Arena in Dallas, as a lot of the relief efforts from many different organizations were focused there.

    In addition to getting help from organizations like FEMA and the American Red Cross, people also got help for their children child from state and local organizations, such as:

    • WIC - the WIC Program, which provides infant formula, breastfeeding support, and child nutrition support for those who need assistance. If you qualified for WIC in Louisiana, Alabama, or Mississippi, then you should be able to get WIC assistance in whatever state you have evacuated to. If you didn't previously qualify, you might call and apply to see if you do know if you need assistance feeding your baby or young child.
    • local Red Cross chapter
    • local Salvation Army center for assistance with food, utilities, rent, housing and other needs
    • Local churches and charities, including a local food bank, might also be good places to find assistance, including things like baby formula, diapers, and clothing.

    But what happened to these children after Katrina?

    According to a report by Save the Children, Hurricane Katrina "has had a lasting, negative impact on tens of thousands of children who survived the storm, only to suffer from serious emotional and developmental consequences for years afterward."

    Many have experienced depression and anxiety.

    And tragically, if a similar disaster occurred today, the US wouldn't be in much better shape to protect our children. Experts state that "Of every $10 in federal emergency preparedness grants, less than 1¢ has gone toward activities targeting children's safety."

    From better pediatric emergency transport and improved "pediatric capacity among the nation’s health care providers and hospitals" to more quickly coordinating and implementing disaster case management services, there are many gaps in our national disaster management and recovery plans that need to be improved.

    Sources

    Barkemeyer, Brian M. NICU Care in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: 5 Years of Changes. PEDIATRICS Volume 128, Supplement 1, August 2011

    Peek, Lori. Children of Katrina

    Save The Children. Still at Risk: US Children 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina. 2015 National Report Card on Protecting Children in Disasters

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