Two years after earthquake, little victories for children in Haiti recovery – UNICEF

Two years after earthquake, little victories for children in Haiti recovery – UNICEF

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Children complete a year-end final examination at Mamalu Kindergarten et École Fondamentale Mixte (Mamalu Kindergarten and Primary School) in Port-au-Prince, the capital. The school, which collapsed during the earthquake, was rebuilt by UNICEF in a semi-permanent facility, allowing children to return to school as quickly as possible and to regain a sense of normalcy after the disaster. Several desks bear the UNICEF logo.

In December 2011, Haiti and its approximately 4.3 million children continue to recover from the 12 January 2010 earthquake that killed some 220,000 people, displaced more than 1.6 million and further disrupted the countrys already inadequate infrastructure. Progress has been substantial: a new national government is in place; about half of the mounds of rubble have been cleared; almost two thirds of those displaced by the quake have moved out of crowded camps; and the countrys health, education and other core services are rebuilding on a stronger foundation. Still, the country remains a fragile and impoverished state, requiring international support. Working with multiple international and national partners, UNICEF continues to address the emergency needs of children, while focusing on building the Governments capacity to uphold and sustain childrens rights. In nutrition, an unprecedented expansion of preventive and treatment services for childhood under-nutrition has begun to address the pre-quake silent crisis of chronic malnutrition. In health, routine child immunizations increased to almost 80 per cent in the past year; medicines and training for midwives have increased; HIV prevention and treatment services, including to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the virus, are expanding; and a national emergency cholera treatment response was implemented (in response to the late 2010 cholera outbreak). Emergency WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) services, including for cholera, have shifted from large-scale water delivery to camps, to urban and rural community-centred efforts to improve WASH access, practises and knowledge. Haitis first metropolitan waste disposal and treatment site opened in September; 2.2 million people received cholera-prevention supplies; and cholera prevention is being integrated into school curricula. In education, although an estimated half of eligible children are still not in school, UNICEF supports a new government initiative to introduce free education; over 1,200 schools have been repaired or constructed since the quake; more children than ever before have received basic school supplies; and policies for early childhood pre-schools are completed. Nevertheless, needs remain enormous across all these vital sectors for children. To date, UNICEF has received US$351.3 million to funds its response since the earthquake and requires an additional US$54 million to support activities through 2012.
11 January 2012

UNICEF released a report, Children of Haiti: Two Years After, showing that two years after the earthquake that devastated parts of Haiti, the situation for children in the country is slowly improving, particularly in the areas of education, health, nutrition and child protection, though critical challenges remain. UNICEF is appealing for HK$187.2 million (US$24 million) to support humanitarian actions in Haiti in 2012.

Thanks to the generous support of donors from the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF and other supporters around the world, according to the report, 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, semi-permanent schools constructed by the organisation. 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 institutionalised 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.”

With its on-going commitment to direct its funds towards who need them the most, over two years, UNICEF has directed more than HK$2.7 billion (US$351 million) for earthquake relief and recovery operation. However, funding gaps still remain. “We are glad to see Haiti is not just in recovery, but is also on the cusp of making real, historic change for children at the two year mark after the earthquake,” said Ms Irene Chan, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF, “but we need to remember many children are still in danger of left behind, and need our support to meet their needs of survival, development and protection.”

UNICEF is appealing for HK$187.2 million (US$24 million) globally 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 HK$234 million (US$30 million) is needed for longer term development assistance. Donation hotline for the Haiti Earthquake Relief and Recovery: 2833 6139.

Keeping children safe, healthy and learning is a mutual goal. UNICEF and 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. Your continued support is crucial to our work.

Please click here to download the Children of Haiti: Two Years After report