PORT-AU-PRINCE, February 26, 2010 - Six weeks after the massive earthquake that devastated parts of Haiti, UNICEF is urgently scaling up its response on behalf of children, according to the agency’s Deputy Executive Director, Hilde Johnson.
Johnson said that the challenges UNICEF faced in Haiti were unprecedented, but that every effort was being made to find creative solutions to help Haiti's children.
Ms. Johnson was speaking during a three-day visit to Port-au-Prince, during which she saw first-hand UNICEF’s emergency relief efforts since the January 12 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people and displaced over a million. She also held extensive talks with Government leaders, UN and other partners on the longer-term recovery and reconstruction phases.
"Some progress has been made, but clearly the international community must put its fullest efforts into assisting Haiti, and especially children, even more," said Ms. Johnson.
During her stay, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director met children at a newly-established tent school in Cite Sportif de Carrefour, one of more than 400 camps for displaced people that have sprung up in earthquake-hit areas of the country. The camp is the first to be provided with the full range of UNICEF educational, protection, health, water and sanitation services.
“Learning spaces like this give children who have been through a terrible experience the chance to get back to normality, allowing them to resume learning activities as well as to play and have fun,” said Ms. Johnson.
The earthquake destroyed more than 3,000 school buildings around the country. In response, UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and other partners have begun to set up learning spaces supported by the distribution of 600 school-in-a-box, 1,414 Early Childhood Development Kits and 866 recreation kits.
Ms. Johnson said UNICEF and the rest of the international humanitarian community was confronted with a situation as complex as any emergency of recent years anywhere in the world.
“Haiti is a unique challenge – not just because of a huge natural disaster but because of its pre-existing problems of internal conflict and institutional fragility. At the same time, we have a unique opportunity to make a new start -- a transformation indeed -- to create a Haiti fit for children.”
UNICEF had extensive experience to draw on from its work during and after previous major emergencies elsewhere, Ms. Johnson added. She said the agency was beginning to develop long-term plans for rebuilding support services for children even as it continued working with the government and other partners on the immediate emergency response.
Earthquake in Haiti