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New York, 12 January 2005
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy:
Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen; I would like to thank the Argentinean Presidency for giving the United Nations and UNICEF the opportunity to address the Security Council on its Open Debate on Haiti.
UNICEF is pleased to note the continued interest of MINUSTAH in human development dimensions in building peace and security in Haiti. We have seen many examples of personal engagement by the contributing troops to the well being of children, whether in Gonaives or elsewhere in the country. I take this opportunity to recognise that.
Today we’ve been invited to address this assembly to contribute our perspective on the situation of Haitian children, who, as this Council is aware, represent one of every two Haitians.
Mr. President, in Haiti, one child under five dies each hour. Every day a mother dies giving birth. Four children out of ten do not go to school. One child out of four suffers from chronic malnutrition, their growth stunted forever.
How can we guarantee Haitian children their childhood? How can we build peace and security and the future of this country without ensuring the survival of its children?
The present peace process in Haiti is the third in a period of fifteen years. Imagine if we had invested much more in Haitian children fifteen years ago? So let us get it right this time around and recognize that investment in children is the best foundation to build a strong and peaceful nation.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. Haiti has never had universal and free education, a fundamental factor for peace building, for reconciliation and for long term sustainable development. Education not only protects children. It builds and gives them a sense of purpose. It gives them the sense of a positive future. It helps them become responsible citizens, who can contribute to the development of Haiti. Simply, it takes them out of the negative, vicious circle of poverty and violence. It gives them hope.
I have good news, Mr. President. Under the auspices of the Interim Government, education is becoming a dynamic sector in Haiti, actively supported by the donor community. Equally encouraging, the private education sector– which represents about 85% of the total - is now more fully integrated into the National Education system.
A truly global integrated approach also requires essentials such as vaccination, access to clean water, sanitation, good nutrition, and care and protection from abuse. Children who have lived through what no child should ever have to live through, need effective psycho-social support. Together with many partners in the United Nations and outside, we are strongly supporting actions in all these areas.
Traditional donors, international financial institutions as well as countries in the region are responding to the commitments they made about six months ago in Washington. After the difficult year 2004, Haiti is at a turning point. There are good signs of progress, but children still face major challenges. For example, we are increasingly concerned by the thousands of children in Haiti living today on the streets, serving as domestic helpers in slave-like conditions, being trafficked, or experiencing other forms of exploitation. Many have been drawn into gangs, their childhood literally stolen.
Mr. President, it is incumbent on all of us - adults, decision makers and leaders - to break the cycle of violence in Haiti and to better prevent and protect children from abuse. So I would like to make a special appeal to this Council and to MINUSTAH. In slum areas like Cite Soleil and very poor urban areas around Gonaives, children are kept hostages under the brutal and criminal rule of local gangs. Today the children in these places are denied their very basic human rights. My plea is for you to help them. I urge the Mission to keep on securing urban areas such as Cite Soleil to guarantee a degree of normal life and to allow the Haitian institutions, UN Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations to work unhindered.
Finally, Mr. President, UNICEF appeals to every actor to redouble their support for Haitian children. All of us share in the responsibility for relieving their suffering. Investing in the survival, education and protection of children, is indeed investing in the future of Haiti.
Thank you Mr President.