Armed violence against schools increases nine-fold in one year

Children lost an average of one and a half school days per week in January.

09 February 2023
Two students on their way home.
UNICEF/022001/Garup
Two students on their way home.

PORT-AU-PRINCE/PANAMA CITY, 9 FEBRUARY 2023 – Acts of armed violence against schools in Haiti, including shooting, ransacking, looting and kidnappings have increased nine-fold in one year, as rising insecurity and widespread unrest begin to cripple the country’s education system, UNICEF warned today.


In the first four months of the academic year (October – February), 72 schools were reportedly targeted compared to eight during the same period last year. This includes at least 13 schools targeted by armed groups, one school set on fire, one student killed, and at least two staff members kidnapped, according to reports by UNICEF partners. In the first six days of February alone, 30 schools were shuttered as a result of escalating violence in urban areas, while over 1 in 4 schools has remained closed since October last year.

"In Haiti, schools have always been considered and respected as safe havens, but in the past few months they have become targets for violence. In certain urban areas of the country, armed groups consider looting schools as a lucrative alternative to other forms of extortion and crime. This must stop. The targeting of schools by armed groups is having an enormous impact on children’s safety, wellbeing and ability to learn.”

Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 60 per cent of Port-au-Prince is controlled by armed groups. When groups target schools, they frequently loot school equipment, including desks, benches, boards, laptops, photocopiers, batteries, and solar panels. Bags of rice, dough, and maize used for school meals – a lifeline for countless children in Haiti – have also been stolen, together with canteen equipment.


With social unrest rising these recent weeks, many school principals have taken the decision to close schools to protect children from potential attacks. As a result, in January 2023, children lost an average of one and a half school days per week. Without urgent action to protect schools from violence, UNICEF predicts that students will lose an estimated 36 days of school by the end of June.


In addition to armed violence, social unrest has also impacted children’s ability to learn in school. On 26 January, for example, children were forced to evacuate schools as violent street protests over the killing of 14 police personnel spread throughout the country.

"As children reel from the effects of armed violence, insecurity in Haiti shows no sign of abating. Violence continues to take a heavy toll on children’s lives in and around Port-au-Prince, and schools are no longer spared. A child who is scared to go to school is a child more at risk of being recruited by armed groups. We must act urgently to protect children’s lives and futures."

Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.

Despite escalating violence and insecurity in the country, the Haitian Ministry of Education has stepped up its efforts to open schools, with 3 in 4 schools reopening by December 2022, compared to less than 1 in 10 in October.


UNICEF urges all actors to refrain from any action that jeopardizes children’s right to an education. UNICEF also calls on the Government of Haiti to ensure schools are safe and to hold accountable groups and individuals who harm or threaten children in school.

Media contacts

Ndiaga Seck
Chef de la Communication
UNICEF
Tel: +50937446199
Tel: +50928123076
Matias Lindemann
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 547 2846

Additional resources

Broken windows of the Lycee Canado following the demonstrations that took place in Port-au-Prince on 26 January 2023.
Broken windows of the Lycee Canado following the demonstrations that took place in Port-au-Prince on 26 January 2023.

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/Haiti.