Nearly 3 million children need support in Haiti – highest number on record
Children in extreme jeopardy amid shocking levels of violence, malnutrition and poverty
PORT-AU-PRINCE, 15 June 2023: Nearly 3 million children – the highest number on record – need humanitarian support in Haiti, where they face staggering levels of violence that have exacerbated hunger and malnutrition in a country already mired in poverty and a resurgence of cholera.
“Being a child in Haiti today is harsher and more dangerous than it ever has been in living memory. The threats and hardships children face are simply unimaginable. They desperately need protection and support,” said UNICEF Haiti Representative Bruno Maes.
Children find themselves in the crossfire, or directly targeted, as armed groups terrorize the population in their fight for territory and control, mainly in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and increasingly in the neighbouring Artibonite region.
Children are being killed or injured on their way to school. Women and girls face extreme sexual violence. Kidnappings for ransom – including of students, teachers, and health workers – have skyrocketed, as have attacks on schools. Tens of thousands have been displaced by the violence.
At the same time, hunger and life-threatening malnutrition are at record levels across the country, concentrated in the capital’s poorest, most insecure and congested neighbourhoods, where some families are virtually entrapped and cut off from essential services. The number of children suffering from life-threatening malnutrition shot up by 30 percent since last year, and nearly one in four children across the country suffers from chronic malnutrition.
Violence, poverty and despair are driving children into the armed groups. Many children and young people in metropolitan Port-au-Prince say they are being forced to join armed groups for protection or because it means food and income for the family. Some say the armed groups provide a sense of identity and belonging.
In addition to the violence, hunger and diseases such as cholera, Haiti and its children face the constant threat of violent storms and earthquakes. In early June, heavy rains, which coincided with the start of the hurricane season, caused destructive and deadly flooding. It was followed by an earthquake just days later in Grand Anse – a region still scarred by an earthquake in 2021.
Haiti is contending with decades of inadequate basic service provision and human capital development, along with extremely high inequality, marginalization and social exclusion. It is the poorest and least developed country in the Western hemisphere, and unequipped to deal with the multiple shocks.
Nearly 3 million children are in need in Haiti this year, the highest number on record. But funding falls far short of the humanitarian needs. UNICEF’s US$246 million funding requirement for Haiti this year is less than 15 per cent funded.
UNICEF is scaling up its operations and expanding its presence in the field, in spite of the limited funding. Together with partners, we are delivering lifesaving support and helping keep critical systems and services for children afloat. We focus on delivering vaccines and therapeutic food, providing safe water and sanitation, enabling children to stay in school and protecting those who have survived the violence. And we are supporting the deployment of thousands of newly-graduated teachers and health workers to areas where across the country where systems risk collapsing.
“Despite the massive challenges, humanitarian support has helped stave off catastrophic hunger and malnutrition. But far more is needed. The international community cannot turn its back on Haiti’s children in their hour of most profound need,” said Maes.