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Copy of West's most neglected children bear brunt of Haiti's upheaval

New study reveals impact of political violence on Haitian children

NEW YORK/PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI, 19 April, 2004 -- UNICEF said today that a new assessment of Haitian children is the first indication of how deeply the country's recent political violence touched their lives.

The nationwide assessment, conducted last month, shows that the conflict has had a severe impact on Haiti's children, particularly the most vulnerable, such as the 2,000 children living in the streets of Port-au-Prince, and the 120,000 girls who work as domestic servants. The survey reveals that:

  • In more than 15 percent of the surveyed zones, children were reportedly killed in the violence. 
  • Children were wounded by gunshots or beaten by armed gangs in more than a third of the surveyed zones.
  • The number of child rapes increased significantly in the urban areas where violence was the most extreme. In one instance, a human rights organization reported nine girls raped in the town of Cabaret over the course of only two days.

UNICEF says that in some places children were pressured to take part in the violence. The survey shows that:

  • Children were recruited by armed gangs in almost a third of the surveyed zones. 
  • Many children who participated in violent activities now fear retribution for their actions.

With few exceptions, Haitian children in most of the country appear to have been touched by fear and insecurity. This includes:

  • In more than 70% of the surveyed zones, families fled the violence to seek refuge in safer areas. 
  • In 8 of the 10 major cities, school students received death threats aimed at preventing them from attending school or participating in public events.

Several assessment missions conducted throughout the country by the UNICEF team in Haiti following the conflict confirmed that a number of schools and hospitals had been the targets of violence or looting.

Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti, said that the report confirms UNICEF's assessment during the crisis that the exceptional vulnerability of Haiti's children almost guaranteed that they would bear the brunt of the suffering.


 
"The conflict affected every child in Haiti because of an environment of impunity. The increase in violence meant that the supply of food was considerably reduced, medical help was virtually unobtainable, and schools were closed for months. The crisis is over, but its effect on children is still of real concern to us."

The new information on the impact of recent violence on Haiti’s children resulted from a UNICEF-led rapid assessment that was carried out in 31 zones across the country. Each of the 31 zones corresponds to a city and its communes.  A total of 438 responses were completed and analysed. The survey provides preliminary qualitative data on the effect of the crisis on children. 

Even before the recent crisis, children in Haiti faced enormous challenges. More than one child in 10 died before the age of five. An estimated 50 per cent of children did not receive routine immunizations. Close to half of primary-school aged children were not attending schools, and 80 per cent did not go to secondary school. The country had an illiteracy rate of over 55 per cent, the highest in the Americas. And the recent crisis has only exacerbated the situation.

UNICEF partners in the study included Save the Children Canada, Save the Children US, World Vision, and Plan International.

UNICEF has received so far a quarter of the money it has asked for to meet the urgent needs of Haitian children in health, education and protection. People around the world can support UNICEF programmes in Haiti by visiting the UNICEF Web site at www.unicef.org.

* * * *

For further information, please contact:

Thierry Delvigne-Jean, UNICEF Port au Prince,  
Tel: 509 245 3525 ext. 226, tdelvignejean@unicef.org

Erin Trowbridge, UNICEF Media, New York,
Tel: 212 326 7172 etrowbridge@unicef.org


For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, 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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Related documents

Assessment report [pdf, 640k]

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