Haiti: Gang violence pushes half a million children out of the classroom in Port-au-Prince
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, 5 May 2022 – In Haiti, 500,000 children have lost access to education due to gang-related violence. Almost 1,700 schools are currently closed in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince as clashes between rival gangs flared since the end of April.
In Haiti, children’s future is threatened by gangs. Insecurity robs thousands of children of their education. Many schools in the capital city remain empty due to gang violence – either closed or inaccessible.
“Families, women and children are afraid to leave their house, children are afraid to go to school. No child can go to school while bullets are flying in the air, it is unsafe and this cannot be,” says Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.
Across the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, 772 schools are closed in Croix-des-Bouquets, 446 schools in Tabarre 274 in Cité Soleil, and 200 others in Martissant, Fontamara, Centre-Ville and Bas-Delmas, according to the Ministry of National Education and Professional Training (MENFP).
Gangs have kept a hold on schools, where directors had to pay gang leaders to ensure safety of the school. Directors could not afford to keep paying and they were obliged to close school doors. Additionally, many schools are also occupied by displaced families.
UNICEF has received credible information that children who are at risk of dropping out of school are reportedly recruited by gangs and paid weekly wages.
“Giving children weapons to fight and using them as soldiers or spies is a violation to their child rights and condemned by both national and international laws. It saddens me that children who are willing to learn and teachers willing to educate cannot do so because they feel unsafe. Children must be able to attend school safely, play freely and enjoy being a child and given a chance to develop to their fullest potential,” said Maes.
Besides the consequences to education, children are also displaced, injured and killed due to the spread of gang violence in Port-au-Prince.
In ten (10) days, 10 children were killed, six (6) in one day.
According to International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 9,000 people got displaced from Croix-des-Bouquets, Tabarre and Cité Soleil due to insecurity. As of 3 May, 752 people including at least 124 women and 200 children found refuge on nine sites around Clercine in Tabarre. They live in precarious conditions with no adequate hygiene and sanitation, no access to basic services, a lack of clean drinking water and no privacy for women and children with an increased risk of gender-based violence.
“Women and children in Haiti’s capital fear their lives and their children’s lives. They suffer from kidnappings, burned houses, killings and displacements as their lives are constantly endangered by persistent urban gang violence. Already impacted by the COVID-19 adverse effects, in addition to the country’s natural disasters, Haitian families continue to flee for their lives,” said Maes.
While gang violence since August 2020 caused the displacement of 19,000 people including 15,000 women and children and hindered transport of supplies and personnel to southwestern Haiti affected by a massive earthquake last August, the current gang ‘crisis’ already affects routes to the north, lengthening the delivery time to people in need and significantly raising humanitarian operation costs to respond to those in need.
With support from UNICEF, MENFP is working to launch an FM station to exclusively broadcast Education by Radio across the country. In the meantime, the programme will be aired on Haiti national radio to fill in the learning gap that children from marginalized areas of Port-au-Prince have lost due to the insecurity.
UNICEF continues to respond to the mounting needs in Port-au-Prince and urges all relevant actors to refrain from using violence to endanger the lives of women and children and stop recruiting children. UNICEF calls upon all stakeholders to take action to restore a peaceful environment to protect Haitian children from violence.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/lac/en.