|A boy waits with others for a food distribution that never took place, following the takeover of the northern city of Gonaives by rebel soldiers in late February.|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, 3 March 2004 – UNICEF’s first airlift of emergency supplies since the political crisis began touched down at approximately 10 am today at Toussaint Louverture International Airport loaded with 30 tonnes of material and equipment.
The cargo includes medical, surgical and obstetric supplies, along with water, nutritional, sanitation and educational materials, to meet the most basic needs of 30,000 vulnerable children for three months.
“This first emergency airlift is a huge boost to our efforts to assist the children and women who have been almost completely shut out from all assistance in the past months,” said Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Haiti’s Resident Representative. “And much more is on the way. Our key concern now is getting safe, secure access to the children and women who are in dire need of assistance.”
In past weeks, Gruloos-Ackermans said, Haiti’s security situation had deteriorated so much that humanitarian workers had very little reach in large parts of the country. Major flooding in the northern part of the country in December set the stage for what has been a critical rupture in humanitarian activities. “Everyone involved now must help to create the space needed to reach the most vulnerable children – or be accountable for the life-threatening consequences when access is shut off to them.”
Long before the ongoing conflict, Haiti’s children were already among the most vulnerable in the world, Ms. Gruloos-Ackermans said. More than one child in 10 died before age five; and around 5,000 infants were born with HIV each year. An estimated 50 per cent of children received routine immunizations, and close to half of primary-school aged children weren’t attending schools. Under half the population had access to safe water, just over one-quarter had access to adequate sanitation. The numbers of mothers dying in childbirth are comparable to some crisis-racked African countries.
“The children of Haiti, and their hopes for a better future should be at the center of the international community’s efforts to rebuild this country,” Ms. Gruloos-Ackermans said. “They need help now, and they will need it for the long haul.”
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