Again, and Again… Enough Is Enough
A Call to All Stakeholders for Urgent Action in Haiti.
On this #WorldChildrensDay, Bruno Maes, UNICEF's representative in Haiti, sends out a call to end violation of children's rights in a nation grappling with multiple crises.
As the world commemorates World Children's Day, the dire situation in Haiti demands the immediate attention and concerted effort of all stakeholders. Over the past week, the situation of children and families has deteriorated, notably in Port-au-Prince. Mothers, children, and newborns face evacuation from a hospital in Port-au-Prince under precarious and uncertain conditions, mirroring the surge in violence between armed groups that throws families into harrowing chaos and insecurity.
In the midst of this turmoil is Naika Pierre, a 22-year-old mother, and her six-month-old baby, both traumatized by recent events. Naika's son, who was treated for suspected cholera, found solace in the hospital's nutritional stabilization unit. However, escalating violence surrounding the hospital compelled Naika and her baby to be evacuated under precarious conditions. During this tumultuous evacuation, Naika remained in anguish, unable to contact her three-year-old child left at home with grandparents. The grandmother, like countless others, had to flee the violence in their neighborhood, with reports indicating that armed groups had set several homes ablaze.
In the midst of this turmoil, the haunting story of sixty children confined in their school last month persists, serving as a stark reminder of the indiscriminate nature of violence. These children, who had been trapped amidst the violence between armed groups, experienced a nightmare that defies description and has left an indelible mark on the collective conscience. These children were trapped in their school for several days, exposed to risks of violence, deprived of water and food. One of the children, Nelove, 11 years old, told us, “No child should endure what I went through.”
Both Nelove and Naika's stories are just one strand in the tapestry of suffering woven across Haiti. More than two million people and families now live under the control of gangs, their daily existence dictated by fear and violence. Additionally, over 200,000 individuals, mostly women and children, find themselves internally displaced, their homes and communities shattered by armed violence. 115,000 more, repatriated from neighboring countries under dire conditions, add to the swelling ranks of the vulnerable.
As we grapple with the various categories of affected populations targeted by UNICEF and its partners – whether those impacted by gang violence, internally displaced people, or returnees in dire conditions - we must not forget the staggering figure of 3.4 million children and families, living out of Port-au-Prince, in desperate need of immediate humanitarian assistance.
This crisis transcends statistics; it is a stark reminder of the human toll of multiple crises. Basic social services are crumbling; some are no longer accessible due to insecurity, compromising also the flow of goods and services.
Even in the face of such adversity, there is hope. World Children's Day serves as a poignant reminder that, amidst the darkness, we can collectively illuminate a path towards a better future for the children of Haiti and beyond. It is a call to action, a reminder that every child, regardless of their circumstances, deserves a future free from the shackles of violence and fear.
As we stand at this critical juncture, let us unite in our resolve to create a safer, brighter world for the children of Haiti. Our collective commitment can be the beacon of hope that these children so desperately need. This World Children's Day, let our actions resound louder than words, proclaiming the universal truth that every child deserves to live in a world where their laughter and dreams can flourish.
Despite the difficult circumstances, UNICEF and its partners remain on the ground, steadfast in delivering aid to the most vulnerable. Now, more than ever, we need your support to help us scale up our response and reach every child in need. Together, we can turn the tide and build a future where the rights and well-being of every child are prioritized and protected.