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At a glance: Haiti

One year after Hurricane Jeanne, recovery continues

© UNICEF video
Students are back in class at École des Nazariens. UNICEF has helped restore 50 schools in Gonaives that were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Jeanne one year ago.

By Sylvana Nzirorera

GONAIVES, Haiti, 18 September 2005 – One year ago Hurricane Jeanne slammed into this coastal town, causing flooding and mudslides, leaving over 2,500 people dead or unaccounted for and severely affecting 300,000 more, including at least 150,000 children.

“It was raining when we went to sleep. We were woken up by water in our beds, and in no time it was like an ocean invading us,” explained 16-year-old Nostra Gosette on the one-year anniversary of the disaster. “I heard my father calling for help. He couldn’t move because he was handicapped. When I managed to get to his room, he was already taken by the water."

© UNICEF video
Nostra Gosette, 16, lost her father and two sisters to Hurricane Jeanne.

“The water threw me to a tree outside the house. My sister was already holding onto it. She grabbed my T-shirt and we managed to climb to the top of the tree. My two other sisters never made it outside the house. They were screaming for help, until we couldn’t hear anything. A few days after, we found their bodies were under the debris.”

One year later Nostra is still coping with the aftermath of the storm. She now lives with her younger sister, who is 14. Their uncle bought them a small shanty to live in. “We help each other, my sister and I. Our uncle gives us a little money to survive.”

School restoration

Nostra’s school, the École des Nazariens, was also destroyed by the storm. Aimable Amiel, the director of the school, saw the devastation firsthand. “In the morning after the hurricane I came to see if the school was all right...and it was gone,” he said. “We lost 22 students out of a total of 250.”

© UNICEF video
A group of scouts puts on a circus show for children at the École des Nazariens in Gonaives, Haiti.

To protect children from additional harm, UNICEF immediately sent in syringes and vaccines for routine immunization. Safe water, water purification tablets, hygiene kits and cooking supplies were also provided. A team of 30 students trained in post-trauma support were deployed to Gonaives, along with a psychologist, to help children and families cope with the emotional stress caused by the disaster.

During post-storm recovery efforts, UNICEF helped restore 50 schools and provided them with benches and other furniture. About 150 ‘School-in-a-box’ kits with enough school supplies for nearly 12,000 students and 300 teachers have been shipped to Gonaives. Today all 50 schools are open for the new school year.

Environmental degradation

“I wouldn’t speak for other schools, but as far as the École des Nazariens is concerned, we are very happy with our new school and we are very excited to resume school next Monday,” said Aimable Amiel. “We have new classrooms built by UNICEF...roomy, with windows and high ceilings.” He also said the teachers have been trained in providing psychological support for children who have survived traumatic experiences.





18 September 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on UNICEF's rehabilitation of schools and psychosocial support for children of Gonaives.

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