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Copy of Survival is Greatest Challenge for Haiti's Children

Report calls for new Haitian government to act on child woes

MONTREAL / MADRID, 22 MARCH, 2006 – Children born in Haiti are more likely to die during early childhood than in any other country in the Western Hemisphere, according to ‘Child Alert: Haiti’, a report released by UNICEF today.

“There are few more challenging places to have a healthy childhood than Haiti,”said Adriano González-Regueral, UNICEF’s Country Representative in Haiti. “While Haiti accounts for only two percent of births in Latin America and the Caribbean it accounts for 19 per cent of deaths for children under five.  It has by far the highest death rates for children under five, with 117 children dying for every 1,000 births.” 

‘Child Alert: Haiti’, the second in a series of papers presenting the core challenges for children in a particular crisis location, reports that thousands of Haiti’s children lead lives of daily struggle. In rural areas, children lack even the most basic services, often walking for hours just to reach the nearest health centre or water source.  In Haiti’s cities, violence and abuse lock children in a cycle that is almost impossible to break.

“We applaud the public commitment of President-elect René Preval to improving the lives of Haiti’s children,” said González-Regueral. “Political leadership can bring the types of changes needed so that a good, basic education and decent health care is not a matter of good fortune for a child, but is instead a common standard.”

‘Child Alert: Haiti’ details the threats to the health and well-being of Haiti’s children:

  • Insufficient Healthcare. Immunization rates for measles (which is highly contagious and often fatal) are much lower in Haiti than anywhere in the region, and lower than immunization rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. Just over half of all children are vaccinated against measles, while two-thirds have no access to even basic sanitation facilities.
  • Environmental Degradation. Haiti faces severe environmental degradation; only 3 percent of the entire country is left with forest cover, which led to high fatalities during the hurricane season (3,000 deaths in 2004 alone). 
  • Lack of Education. While education offers hope for a better life, many families cannot afford to send their children to school because the fees are too costly. Only 55 percent of primary-school age children attend school. The average girl attends school for only two years.  One-third of Haiti’s youth aged 15-24 are illiterate. 
  • Violence and Abuse. There are thousands of street children throughout Haiti. Many children are forced to fight in gangs or become part of the restavek subculture of bonded servitude, where 300,000 children work as unpaid domestic servants.  Girls account for three-quarters of these workers. 

UNICEF’s activities in Haiti include supporting routine immunization, improved nutrition and back-to-school campaigns that would encourage widespread enrolment. UNICEF’s programmes in Haiti, which has the region’s highest population of orphans, includes supporting children who have lost one or both parents as well as those made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. UNICEF delivers sanitation kits containing water containers, purification tablets and soap to households in Haiti as part of a package of basic emergency supplies.

* * *  *

‘Child Alert: Haiti’ consists of a report and a multimedia presentation including photographs by renowned photojournalist Roger LeMoyne of Redux Pictures.  Please visit http://www.unicef.org/childalert/haiti for the full report, including multimedia features.  For photographs relating to this report, please email photo@unicef.org or visit http://www.reduxpictures.com/  

Attention broadcasters: B-roll of the event will be available on www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 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.

For further information, please contact:
Gordon Weiss, gweiss@unicef.org, UNICEF Media, New York (1)212 326 7426       

Susan Lagana, slagana@unicef.org, UNICEF Media, New York (1)212 326 7516

 

 

 

Video

21 March 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Jane O’Brien reports on the plight of Haiti’s children

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