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Hurricane Gustav strikes Haiti, forcing 6,300 people from their homes in one of the world’s poorest countries

© UNICEF Haiti/HAI2008-0907/Vigneault
Children temporarily relocated in a school in Port-au-Prince (Tabarre) during Hurricane Gustav. Due to poor sanitation, some of them develop waterborne diseases.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, 29 August 2008 – An estimated 6,300 Haitians, mostly city-dwellers from Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Leogane, were forced from their homes by Hurricane Gustav as torrential rains pounded the deforested southern peninsula of the country on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The population of Haiti is already suffering from extreme poverty, and soaring food prices are aggravating the situation,” says Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “Whenever a natural disaster such as Gustav hits the region, the consequences of its impact are amplified.”

With nearly 45% of the country’s population under the age of 18, children are among those most affected by the grinding poverty, high food prices and now a substantial natural disaster striking the country.

UNICEF, WFP and their partners are working with the government to ascertain the extent of the damage and to determine what actions are required to assist those affected. While humanitarian access to most of the disaster areas has improved as weather conditions have slowly begun to return to normal, damaged roads and insecurity still impede rapid assessment to some areas.

© UNICEF Haiti/HAI2008-0950/Vigneault
Around 5,000 families live in the Bigaratte district of Haiti's capital city Port-au-Prince. On 26 August 2008, Hurricane Gustav caused the Rivière Grise to burst and flooded the whole district.

Of special concern to Laurini is the impact the hurricane may have on schools. Only 51% of girls and 48% of boys of primary school age attend school in Haiti, and in a country faced with such immense challenges, education represents a key source of hope for the future.

Too many Haitian families are already being faced, this year, with a decision no family should ever have to make: to feed their children, or to send them to school. While a UNICEF initiative aims to help get children back into school in Haiti as the new school year begins, the effects of the hurricane may be disruptive.

“If schools are seriously damaged or used as temporary shelter, this could seriously delay children’s return to school, which is due in about a week,” says Laurini.

For further information, please contact:
Louis-Etienne Vigneault-D., Communication Officer, UNICEF Haiti
Mobile: +509 3463 0056, Email: lvigneault@unicef.org

Annamaria Laurini, Representative, UNICEF Haiti
Telephone : +509 2245-3525, Email : alaurini@unicef.org

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About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

 

 
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