On eve of quake’s anniversary, Haitian children see some progress – UNICEF

9 January 2012

Two years after an earthquake flattened Haiti, the country’s children are slowly experiencing improvements in their living standards despite continuing challenges, a United Nations report announced today.

“There is evidence of little victories everywhere, although serious gaps and inadequacies in Haiti’s basic governance structures remain,” said Françoise Gruloss-Ackermans, the representative in Haiti of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), of her agency’s report.

According to the study, there has been healing and progress for children in the areas of education, health, nutrition and child protection.

UNICEF has helped more than 750,000 children return to school and some 80,000 of them are now attending classes in the 193 quake-resistant schools constructed by the UN agency. In addition, more than 15,000 malnourished children have received care through therapeutic feeding programmes.

However, the report also warned that with over four million Haitian children under the age of 18, many of them still struggle for survival, development and protection amid glaring institutional weaknesses.

“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,” she warned, noting that the vast numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continue to place an inordinate amount of pressure on the Haitian Government and its international partners.

More than 500,000 Haitians remain displaced in over 800 different IDP camps across the quake-affected areas and, as the overwhelming majority of them were renters prior to the quake, many of them have no homes in which to return.

The report also warned that continuing gaps in the funding for recovery programmes will affect overall progress on child rights in 2012. As a result, UNICEF has launched a $24 million appeal for immediate humanitarian support to vulnerable children while another $30 million will be needed for longer-term development assistance.

“The country will need strong and steadfast support to overcome the challenges it still faces,” continued Ms. Gruloss-Ackermans. “While the death toll and destruction from the earthquake were unmatched in modern times, the resources mobilized in the wake of disaster were also exceptional,” she stated, emphasizing Haiti now had a “once and a lifetime opportunity” to stop and reverse decades of degradation and mismanagement.


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