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News note

Hurricane Gustav strikes Haiti, forcing 6,300 people from their homes

PORT-AU-PRINCE, 29 August 2008 – An estimated 6,300 Haitians, mostly city-dwellers from Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Leogane, were forced from their homes by Hurricane Gustav as torrential rains pounded the deforested southern peninsula of the country on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The population of Haiti is already suffering from extreme poverty, and soaring food prices are aggravating the situation,” says Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “Whenever a natural disaster such as Gustav hits the region, the consequences of its impact are amplified.”

With nearly 45 per cent of the country’s population under the age of 18, children are among those most affected by the grinding poverty, high food prices and now a substantial natural disaster striking the country.

UNICEF, WFP and their partners are working with the government to ascertain the extent of the damage and to determine what actions are required to assist those affected. While humanitarian access to most of the disaster areas has improved as weather conditions have slowly begun to return to normal, damaged roads and insecurity still impede rapid assessment to some areas.

Of special concern to Laurini is the impact the hurricane may have on schools. Only 51 per cent of girls and 48 per cent of boys of primary school age attend school in Haiti, and in a country faced with such immense challenges, education represents a key source of hope for the future. Too many Haitian families are already being faced, this year, with a decision no family should ever have to make: to feed their children, or to send them to school. While a UNICEF initiative aims to help get children back into school in Haiti as the new school year begins, the effects of the hurricane may be disruptive.

“If schools are seriously damaged or used as temporary shelter, this could seriously delay children’s return to school, which is due in about a week,” says Laurini.

For further information, please contact:
Louis-Etienne Vigneault-D, UNICEF Haiti, +509 3463 0056, lvigneault@unicef.org
Miranda Eeles, UNICEF Geneva, +41 22 909 5715, meeles@unicef.org
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York, +212 326 7426, pmccormick@unicef.org




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