5 ways UNICEF is supporting Haiti’s children
Violence, poverty, school closures and a resurgence of cholera and malnutrition are pushing children and their families to the breaking point.
Half of Haiti’s children are likely to depend on humanitarian aid to survive 2023 as political turmoil, an upsurge in armed violence, a resurgence of cholera, malnutrition and skyrocketing inflation create a devastating combination of threats. With limited access to safe drinking water, affordable food and basic education and health services, children and their families are reaching breaking point.
Despite the extremely insecure and volatile environment, UNICEF has been working with partners to step up efforts to protect families and provide the life-saving support they desperately require, including:
Supporting nutrition services
More than 4.9 million people in Haiti are estimated to be facing acute hunger, with tens of thousands of children under the age of five in Haiti suffering from severe wasting, also known as severe acute malnutrition. Children who are severely wasted succumb to diseases because their bodies provide virtually no protection against the bacteria, virus or fungi that infect them. As households have become poorer, accessing quality food has become increasingly difficult. Continuing armed violence and insecurity have only exacerbated the challenges.
UNICEF is supporting the provision of nutrition services, including treatment for acute malnutrition, including providing micronutrient supplementation, deworming and immunizations.
Delivering health supplies
In October 2022, Haiti declared a resurgence in cholera after more than three years without a single reported case. Malnutrition and cholera are a lethal combination and children suffering from severe acute malnutrition are more vulnerable to cholera and far more at risk of dying from the disease.
Despite the extremely volatile environment, UNICEF has been working with partners to step up efforts to protect families against cholera by delivering cholera kits and improving access to safe drinking water. UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Health as it rolled out a vaccination campaign, including the delivery of oral vaccine doses, equipping vaccination teams with cold boxes for transporting vaccines, and risk communication through community engagement.
Promoting safe learning environments
Education is under attack in Haiti. Acts of armed violence against schools and school children, including shooting, ransacking, looting and kidnappings, have increased dramatically over the past year, as rising insecurity and widespread unrest begin to cripple the country’s education system. Attacks on schools by armed groups are having an enormous impact on children’s safety, well-being and ability to learn. Children who are scared to go to school are also more at risk of being recruited by armed groups.
For children living among civil unrest and urban violence, schools represent more than just learning. Classrooms provide children with the support of teachers and peers, access to school meals, and a sense of normalcy. UNICEF urges all actors to refrain from any action that jeopardizes children’s right to an education.
UNICEF also promotes safe access and return to learning, including through the provision of school supplies and advocacy for an end to attacks on education. In addition, conditional cash grants will be provided to schools that enroll vulnerable children and improve educational infrastructure and capacity management for teachers.
Providing psychosocial support
Kidnappings, burned houses, killings and displacement – children’s lives in Haiti are under constant threat from increasing armed violence, particularly in the capital Port-au-Prince. The looming threats of violence – including sexual and gender-based violence – as well as family separation and displacement, are all taking a heavy toll on children’s mental health and well-being.
In addition to advocacy to prevent and end armed violence against children and communities, UNICEF prioritizes psychosocial support interventions for children. These include identifying vulnerable children and providing care and referrals as needed. UNICEF also supports protection services to victims of gender-based violence, unaccompanied and separated children and those associated with armed groups, while also strengthening of community child protection networks.
Assisting with disaster recovery and preparedness
More than 18 months since a powerful earthquake struck southwestern Haiti in August 2021 earthquake – causing more than 2,200 deaths, destroyed tens of thousands of homes, and turned basic infrastructure into rubble – the country is still recovering from the devastation. While significant progress has been made despite the extreme difficulties posed by political and social upheaval and ongoing violence, challenges remain in ensuring access to health, water, sanitation and hygiene, protection, education and other services.
UNICEF has been at the forefront of the response since the first hours after the disaster and continues to support the rebuilding and rehabilitation of schools in southwestern Haiti, rebuilding water supply systems, and supporting vulnerable families with cash transfers to help them recover from the impact of the disaster.
At the same time, UNICEF is working to increase preparedness ahead of the upcoming hurricane season, to help ensure already vulnerable populations are protected and prepared before it’s too late.
Humanitarian aid is currently the only buffer preventing a descent into chaos. UNICEF is working around the clock to ensure we don’t leave any children behind, and has already received invaluable support from donors. But to meet the urgent and growing needs, we require timely additional support, particularly flexible funds. Flexible funding from partners and donors plays a critical role in enabling UNICEF to respond quickly in Haiti and other emergencies while also preparing for future threats.