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At a glance: Haiti

Reaching young survivors with health and nutrition aid in Haiti's quake zone

Responding to a children's emergency

© US Fund for UNICEF/2010/Alleyne
A mother and child await treatment at open-air clinic erected on grounds of English Adventist Academy in Carrefour, Haiti, where thousands of earthquake survivors are encamped.

By Richard Alleyne

JACMEL, Haiti, 27 January 2010 – In parts of Haiti devastated by the earthquake that struck on 12 January – including the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as the southern port city of Jacmel and other localities – UNICEF is reaching children with life-saving support.

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In many ways, this is a children’s emergency. Nearly 40 per cent of all Haitians are under 14 years of age, and children are at the greatest risk in the quake's aftermath. UNICEF and its partners are paying specific attention to the youngest and most vulnerable children, thousands of whom are living in displacement settlements, orphanages and care centres.

Next week, UNICEF will help launch an urgent immunization campaign for 600,000 displaced children under the age of five, who will be vaccinated against measles, diphtheria and tetanus. To ward off any increases in acute malnutrition, children under five will also need therapeutic and supplementary feeding, as well as general food rations.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0082/LeMoyne
Haitian aid workers and UNICEF and World Food Programme staff prepare to distribute relief supplies at a camp for people displaced by the earthquake in the southern Haitian port city of Jacmel.

Aid for Jacmel

Here in Jacmel, UNICEF has been working with the World Food Programme to provide nutritional corn-soy blend to earthquake-affected children and families.

This historic seaside city of about 40,000 has sustained major damage. The earthquake destroyed entire blocks, killed many residents and left thousands more homeless. To accommodate the displaced and injured, churches and some other local institutions have opened up their properties for improvised settlements and temporary medical facilities.

UNICEF is providing emergency support to Saint Michel Hospital, which serves Jacmel and nearby LaValle but is largely inoperable due to quake damage and diminished staff capacity. A contingent of volunteer surgeons from the US states of Virginia and Delaware has set up open-air triage and treatment centres on the hospital grounds.

© US Fund for UNICEF/2010/Alleyne
A team of volunteer surgeons from the United States assists the reduced staff at Saint Michel Hospital in Jacmel, Haiti.

“We’re seeing a lot of trauma injuries,” said one of the surgeons, Dr. John Brevia. “We’re performing orthopaedic surgeries of open fractures, closed fractures, and in all age groups. We’re even seeing infants with fractures.”

Health needs in Carrefour

Closer to Haiti’s capital, in the town of Carrefour, the health needs of the affected population are critical, as well – particularly for children living in settlement camps. One such camp, now home to thousands of displaced families, sprawls across the campus of the English Adventist Academy in Carrefour.

“We are seeing some cases of sickness, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and cough. There have also been cases of infection from injuries and the local hospitals are really overburdened,” said head nurse Bauzile Evenauze at the settlement’s makeshift clinic.

“We also need more supplies,” she added.

Haiti’s ‘double disaster’

Next week’s planned immunization campaign – which is being organized by UNICEF, the World Health Organization and Haiti’s Ministry of Health – will begin with children at camps like the ones in Jacmel and Carrefour, plus hundreds more such settlements in Port-au-Prince.

“We’ve already procured all the vaccines, the injection devices and the cold-chain equipment for preserving these life-saving medicines,” said UNICEF Emergency Health Chief Mehoundo Faton. “Because of the extremely poor sanitary conditions at the settlement camps and the greater potential for disease outbreak – particularly that of measles – we will be targeting children at these camps first.”

Even before the earthquake, only about half of Haiti’s children were properly immunized. Indeed, poor immunization coverage is yet another example of the ‘double disaster’ now facing the country – where existing development constraints have been significantly worsened by the earthquake’s ruinous impact.

Tim Ledwith contributed to this story from New York.




24 January 2010:
US Fund for UNICEF staffer Richard Alleyne reports on medical aid for displaced and injured earthquake survivors in Jacmel, Haiti.
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