Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore following the earthquake in Haiti

15 August 2021

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NEW YORK, 15 August 2021 – “We do not yet know the full extent of the devastation wrought by the earthquake that struck yesterday in southwest Haiti. But reports from our teams and others on the ground paint a picture of profound loss. More than 700 people are reported to have been killed, including children, with many more injured. Countless lives have been upended, while thousands of homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed.   

“Health centres, schools, bridges and other essential facilities and infrastructure on which children and families depend have also been impacted – in some cases, irreparably. Making matters worse, Tropical Depression Grace is expected to pass over Haiti late Monday into Tuesday. Heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surges could exacerbate damage from the earthquake and complicate rescue and relief efforts.

“This latest tragedy comes 11 years after another major earthquake hit southwest of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and causing incalculable suffering and destruction.

“Little more than a decade on, Haiti is reeling once again. And this disaster coincides with political instability, rising gang violence, alarmingly high rates of malnutrition among children, and the COVID-19 pandemic – for which Haiti has received just 500,000 vaccine doses, despite requiring far more. It is now especially urgent to reach those impacted by the earthquake with the vaccine.  

“The humanitarian needs in affected areas are acute as essential services have been disrupted. Many people urgently need health care and clean water. Those who are displaced need shelter. Children who have been separated from their families amidst the chaos need protection.

“UNICEF is there with our staff, supporting assessments and ready with prepositioned emergency supplies. UNICEF medical kits to support 30,000 people have already been delivered to Les Cayes with additional health, water and sanitation supplies on the way. We will continue to prioritize the resumption of essential services – including water and sanitation, health, nutrition and shelter – for the affected population.

“Yet insecurity linked to gang violence in and around the main road from the capital to the southwest could undermine the overall response. We call on armed actors in these areas to ensure that humanitarian organizations have unfettered access to safely provide timely lifesaving support and services to survivors.

“Now and in the days to come, UNICEF will remain on the ground working with the Government and our partners to reach vulnerable children and families.”

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