UNICEF condemns school arson by armed groups in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Statement attributable to Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti

27 March 2024

PORT-AU-PRINCE, 27 March 2024 – "UNICEF strongly condemns the arson attack on a school in downtown Port-au-Prince by armed groups, which left it burnt and deprived over 1,000 children of their right to education. On the afternoon of Monday 25 March 2024, heavily armed groups entered school premises in Port-au-Prince and set fire to 23 classrooms.

"Attacks on schools violate children’s rights and international humanitarian law. Schools should be safe spaces and protected at all times. It is hard to believe that children have to live in permanent fear of such attacks. This doesn’t have to be their reality. Attacks on children and families must stop, once and for all.

"The number of schools forced to close due to violence and insecurity has risen in recent months. As of the end of January, a total of 900 schools had temporarily closed, depriving approximately 200,000 children of their right to education. Threats to school security are particularly acute in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince and in the northern part of Artibonite.

"In a country facing increasingly complex conflicts and instability, education can never be considered merely an option; it must be acknowledged as a necessity, a matter of survival, and a key to social stability.

"UNICEF urges all parties to safeguard students, educators, parents, and educational infrastructure, in alignment with the Safe Schools Declaration, endorsed by over 111 countries worldwide, including Haiti. It is a political commitment to better protect students, teachers, and schools during armed conflict and to support the continuation of education.

"In Haiti, UNICEF is assisting families affected by violence and displacement to reintegrate children into formal education. Where integration into formal schools is not feasible, UNICEF collaborates with partners to establish alternative, safe, and temporary learning environments for children.

"UNICEF is collaborating with the Ministry of Education to deploy a distance-learning initiative, delivered via "Radio Télé Éducative" (RTE) broadcasts on Haiti's national radio station, in response to the significant disruptions to education in Port-au-Prince, particularly since the coordinated armed groups attacks on 29 February 2024."

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