5 ways UNICEF is supporting Haiti’s children
Spiraling violence, poverty and malnutrition are pushing children and their families to the breaking point.
Political turmoil, civil unrest and increasing armed violence, crippling poverty and natural disasters: A deadly combination of threats continues to jeopardize the survival, safety and well-being of Haiti’s children.
Half of the population in Haiti needs humanitarian assistance, including nearly 3 million children. But half of those in need of assistance aren’t getting it – in large part because of insecurity and insufficient humanitarian funding. Basic services are on the verge of collapse.
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
Hunger and life-threatening malnutrition are at record levels, particularly in the most insecure and congested neighborhoods of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where children and families are essentially trapped and cut off from essential services.
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, one compounding the other. Children suffering from severe acute malnutrition are more vulnerable to cholera and more at risk of dying from the disease.
Working with the Government and partners, UNICEF is helping to sustain national, regional, and – in the most insecure areas – neighborhood systems and services, that protect children and families. UNICEF has been focusing on delivering lifesaving vaccines and therapeutic food as well as ensuring safe water, sanitation and hygiene.
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 as rising insecurity and widespread unrest begin to cripple the country’s education system. The targeting of schools by armed groups is 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 go beyond places of learning by providing them 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 promotes safe access and return to learning, including through the provision of school supplies and advocacy for an end to attacks on education.
A nationwide cash transfer initiative is benefiting thousands of children and hundreds of teachers, including by supporting families in enrolling their children in school and ensuring that teachers are prepared for the new school year. In addition, UNICEF continues to rebuild schools damaged by recent earthquakes, ensuring that students have safe and secure learning environments. UNICEF is also working to ensure children have the supplies they need to start school by distributing school kits.
Providing psychosocial support
Kidnappings, burned houses, killings and displacement – children’s lives 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, provision of protection services to victims of gender-based violence, unaccompanied and separated children and those associated with armed groups, and strengthening of community child protection networks.
Assisting with disaster recovery and preparedness
Two years 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 rehabilitating 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 for 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.