UNICEF Executive Director Visits Haitian Earthquake Victims in Dominican Republic
New York, 8 February 2010 – Following a visit to Haiti, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman spent two days in the Dominican Republic where she visited a residential care center and two hospitals caring for children injured in the earthquake in Haiti.
The residential care center, in the capital city of Santo Domingo, is taking in Haitian children and their family members once they have been released from the hospital. The center provides a supportive residential environment and post-operative care for families. It also helps track missing family members so that they can be reunited.
“I met many children who were recovering from severe injuries, including a five-year-old girl whose leg had been amputated,” said Veneman. “She has been seriously traumatized and barely speaks. It is difficult for her to understand the tragedy that happened and the loss of her leg.”
One hospital the Executive Director visited was crammed with women and children waiting to get much needed operations. It illustrated the challenges relief workers are facing in the aftermath of the disaster and the importance of the massive coordination effort that continues more than three weeks later.
“I met a boy who survived for three days under the rubble,” said Veneman. “The boy’s family has not been located but he is being comforted by other survivors, many of whom lost everything in the earthquake.”
Veneman heard countless stories of heartbreak, but heroic stories of compassion. While so many people lost their lives, many were also saved thanks to the bravery of others.
Tragedies like this can also be a reminder of the resilience, strength, and character of the human spirit.
Veneman also had meetings with Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez Reyna and Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso. She praised the work of the Dominican Republic government in assisting Haiti since the earthquake. They also discussed the importance of continued cooperation and coordination to ensure Haitian children are receiving care and the protection they need, particularly during this vulnerable period.
“With an estimated 38 per cent of the population of Haiti under the age of 15, this is a children’s emergency,” said Veneman. “UNICEF continues to have grave concerns about the protection of Haitian children. We applaud the efforts taken by Haitian and Dominican governments to address the very complex and serious issue of child trafficking. We will continue to work together to provide support to ensure their protection.”
In the aftermath of any disaster, children without parental or other family care are especially vulnerable. On both sides of the border, UNICEF and its partners are providing food, clean water, shelter and life-saving supplies to health care facilities and temporary care centers.
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