Westport, Conn. (August 31, 2008) — With the imminent landfall of Hurricane Gustav, Save the Children emergency response teams are assisting the agency's Gulf Coast staff in helping thousands of children and families as they arrive at evacuation shelters throughout Louisiana and Mississippi.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Gustav could make landfall as a category 3 or 4 on the US Gulf Coast late Monday or Tuesday.

Save the Children has been operating children-focused programs on the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans three years ago. This weekend, the agency is handing out 1,500 children's evacuation backpacks to families at the mass shelters, with flashlights, safety whistles, craft activities and other items to comfort frightened, displaced children. In addition, Save the Children is providing emergency supplies, such as baby bottles and diapers, and setting up the agency's signature Safe Spaces program to ensure the safety and well-being of children during the initial phase of the evacuation to shelters.

"One of the mass shelters in Alexandria, Louisiana has already exceeded its capacity," says Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais, who is managing Save the Children's response to the emergency in the Gulf. "As the evacuation continues, shelter officials are going to be challenged to meet the needs of children. We hope to provide the support and assistance they need."

Save the Children also plans to work to ensure that child-care centers can quickly re-establish services and schools can rebound so students do not fall behind in their education.

"Children are extremely vulnerable during an emergency and evacuation," said Mark Shriver, Save the Children's vice president for U.S. programs. "We know from experience that their needs are often overlooked during the confusion before, during and after a disaster. Save the Children will be there to provide safe activities for children in shelters and to help them and their parents return to the normalcy once the danger has passed."

Save the Children — which assisted over 190,000 children and caregivers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama after Hurricane Katrina — continues to provide long-term education and nutrition programs in the Gulf region.

Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in the United States and in more than 50 countries around the world.

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