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At a glance: Haiti

Children central to recovery and development after the earthquake in Haiti

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0174/Shehzad Noorani
At the Lakay Don Bosco centre in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, older boys watch a small girl play with a set of stacking toys from a newly delivered UNICEF Early Childhood Development kit.

By Roshan Khadivi

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 9 March 2010 – At the Automeca Hyundai lot, tents, tarpaulins and cloths slung across wooden sticks compete for space with the damaged shells of sedans, pick-up trucks and SUVs. What was once a car dealership is now an encampment for more than 15,000 Haitians, many of them children.

Seven weeks after Haiti’s earthquake, which affected more than a million children, UNICEF is working with partners to support and engage young children living in such makeshift settlements by supplying them with Early Childhood Development (ECD) kits.

A holistic approach
ECD kits take a holistic approach to child rights and needs. Each kit, which serves up to 50 children, contains supplies to set up safe play spaces; materials for age-appropriate early learning; basic items for hygiene; and an illustrated activity guide for caregivers.

The kits, already in use in some 40 countries, are designed to provide children – primarily in emergency situations − with activities that address their specific social, emotional, physical, cognitive and developmental needs.

In the aftermath of Haiti’s 12 January earthquake, ECD kits have been distributed to residential care centres, child-friendly spaces and young child feeding centres, as well as paediatric centres, orphanages and preschools. UNICEF has also formed an ECD working group to coordinate early-childhood activities with other UNICEF programmes and with non-governmental partners.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0170/Shehzad Noorani
Maud Monique Ernest Laurent (right), manager at the Lakay Don Bosco centre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, helps to unpack items from a newly arrived ECD kit.

Creating new opportunities
At the Automeca Hyndai camp, dozens of children formed a line as UNICEF Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence Specialist Catherine Maternowska opened the camp’s first ECD kit. One by one, crayons, scribblers and brightly coloured building blocks appeared. The children clapped excitedly; the younger ones jumped up and down.

UNICEF is working to distribute kits like these nationwide, and as quickly as possible. With most schools still closed, Ms. Maternowska said each kit both addresses a need and creates new opportunities.

“These games help provide a secure space,” she noted. “It offers us a chance to do informal education, to brush up on math skills or reading skills … or talk about issues such as gender-based violence, and how [children] can protect themselves.”

UNICEF is also working closely with the Haitian Ministries of Health and Education, the Institute of Social Welfare and Research, and others to keep children’s needs at the centre of national recovery and development efforts.

Jennifer Bakody contributed to this story.



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