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UNICEF joins relief efforts to protect hundreds of families and children in flood-ravaged areas in Haiti and Dominican Republic

© UNICEF Haiti/Thierry Delvigne-Jean
Aerial view of the town of Font Verrettes, now completely covered with rocks and mud after the floods.

PORT AU PRINCE/SANTO DOMINGO, 26 May 2004 – UNICEF offices in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have joined forces to support humanitarian relief for the more than 1,200  families, including children, who have been left homeless and without access to clean water, food and medical care following the severe floods that ravaged several villages and towns along the border between the neighboring countries last weekend.

In Haiti, UNICEF and several other UN agencies conducted the first assessment of the affected areas, where an estimated 10,000 people have been impacted by the disaster. A UNICEF expert who participated in the mission reported that nearly 2,000 houses had been destroyed or damaged. In addition, three schools were completely destroyed and five seriously damaged, leaving some 2,800 children without access to education.

UNICEF teams have traveled to Jimani in the Southeast and to the Northeast region in the Dominican Republic to assess the situation on the ground and deliver initial supplies of Oral Rehydration Salts to prevent dehydration from diarrhea caused by contaminated water supplies. 

Yvonne Villanueva, Officer in Charge of UNICEF-Santo Domingo, declared that “in addition to our concern for the children and families, we are closely following the situation regarding the effect on the agricultural sector since many of the crops raised in the area are staple foods for both Dominican and Haitian families." Some 500,000 hectares of farm land have been flooded affecting rice, bananas and other products, seriously damaging the economy and producing a shortage of food in the area.

In the Dominican Republic, the National Emergency Committee that includes UN agencies informed that 12,050 persons have been evacuated, of whom 200 are currently in emergency shelters. 

UNICEF’s immediate priority will be to distribute relief supplies to the most vulnerable families on both sides of the border, including plastic sheeting to build shelters, hygiene and health kits, water purification tablets and jerrycans.

© UNICEF Haiti/Thierry Delvigne-Jean
In the town of Font Verrettes, a woman sits on what used to be her house, now covered with rocks and mud.

UNICEF teams in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are working together with other UN agencies and international organizations to co-ordinate the distribution of supplies for the longer-term needs of families and children, including education and recreation kits, and tents for temporary schools.  UNICEF will also work with local organizations to identify and help reunite children who have been separated from their family or have lost family members in the tragedy.

In the Dominican Republic, emergency needs extend to other areas in the country, since flooding is affecting the Northeast and Central regions as well as the Southeast.

Speaking from Port au Prince, UNICEF Representative Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans said that with the start of the rainy season, new floods were likely to hit the country over the next few months. “Our immediate priority is to protect the hundreds of children who have lost family members and their homes.” said Gruloos-Ackermans. “But we also need to make sure that we are ready to respond to similar disasters in the future – these children have suffered enough.”

The flood-ravaged areas are home to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children. A recent immunization campaign conducted by UNICEF last month in the border regions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic revealed that 37 per cent of the children between 0-11 months had never been vaccinated before. Some areas are so isolated that half the children do not receive routine immunization against preventable diseases and one child in ten dies before the age of five.  The recent conflict in Haiti also had a major negative impact on the country's children.

Every year, the rainy season takes a toll on this Caribbean island as severe floods and hurricanes destroy villages and displace thousands of people. In Haiti, erosion and deforestation have made the country particularly vulnerable to floods during the six-month rainy season from May to October.  In the Dominican Republic, many poor families build their homes close to river beds, making them extremely vulnerable to flooding during the rainy season.

In the next few days, UNICEF will be appealing for additional funds to respond to the most urgent needs of children and families affected by the floods in Haiti and Dominican Republic, in the context of their ongoing Country Programs of Co-operation. 


For further information, please contact:

Thierry Delvigne-Jean
UNICEF Haiti, Tel 00. 509. 245. 3525

Sylvana Nzirorera
UNICEF Haiti, Tel 00. 509. 245. 3525

Patricia Garcia
UNICEF Dominican Republic, Tel 001809 540 2868

Maria Blanco
UNICEF TACRO, Tel 507 .315. 7485




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