Two years after earthquake, little victories for children in Haiti recovery
PORT-AU-PRINCE, 9 January 2012 – UNICEF today released a report showing that two years after the earthquake that devastated parts of Haiti, the situation for children in the country is slowly improving, though critical challenges remain.
According to the report, there is clear evidence of healing and progress for children, particularly in the areas of education, health, nutrition and child protection.
UNICEF has helped more than 750,000 children to return to school and some 80,000 of them are now attending classes in 193 safe, earthquake-resistant schools constructed by the organization. Over 120,000 children enjoy structured play in one of the 520 child friendly spaces. More than 15,000 malnourished children have received life-saving care in 314 therapeutic feeding programmes supported by UNICEF. And 95 rural communities have launched new programmes to improve sanitation.
In the area of child protection, a major step has been that the government of Haiti has strengthened its legal framework for institutionalized children. Prior to the earthquake the government did not know how many children were living in institutions - or even where they were. Now, with UNICEF’s support, the first ever Directory of Residential Care Facilities has been launched; so far more than half of the country’s 650 centres have been assessed; and over 13,400 children (out of an estimated 50,000 living in residential care) have been registered. The government has also signed the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption, which protects the rights of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents by establishing minimum standards for adoptions.
"There is evidence of little victories everywhere, although serious gaps and inadequacies in Haiti’s basic governance structures remain,” said Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF’s representative in Haiti. “Make no mistake: the country remains a fragile state, beset by chronic poverty and under-development. Its weak institutions leave children vulnerable to shocks and the impact of disaster”
The report notes that with 4,316,000 children under 18, most of them still only have limited opportunities for survival, development and protection. Although they begin 2012 with a long-awaited new government and national budget, children are affected by the various challenges which remain for a country where the scars of disaster are still visible on the infrastructure, institutions and social systems. More than 500,000 individuals still shelter in over 800 different displacement sites across the earthquake-affected area. Some 77 per cent were renters before the earthquake, meaning most have no homes to return to. An outbreak of cholera in the earthquake’s wake continues to place an additional burden on already severely limited infrastructure and services.
“The country will need strong and steadfast support to overcome the challenges it still faces,” said Gruloos-Ackermans. “While the death toll and destruction from the earthquake were unmatched in modern times, the resources mobilised in the wake of disaster were also exceptional,” she added. “Together they present a ‘once a lifetime’ opportunity to set Haiti on a course that arrests and reverses decades of degradation and mismanagement.”
UNICEF, in the last year of its “transitional programme” for earthquake recovery, continues to implement a mix of humanitarian relief, capacity development for institutional re-building and advocacy simultaneously, in order to address both acute and chronic challenges that prevent the realisation of child rights. However, funding gaps still remain. UNICEF is appealing for US $24 million for immediate humanitarian needs in 2012 to support vulnerable children through five key projects in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and child protection. Another US $30 million is needed for longer term development assistance.
UNICEF says keeping children safe, healthy and learning is a mutual goal - one shared by parents, teachers, both public and private sector entities, religious organisations, the new government and others across the nation. A wide range of partners are working together to innovate, problem-solve and generate momentum to lead to a sustainable future for the children of Haiti.
Photo: © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1322/Marco Dormino, Haiti, 2011