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Almost a third of Haiti’s children need emergency aid “urgently”

UNICEF is “concerned” that increased insecurity after Moise’s murder is hampering humanitarian work

Almost a third of all children in Haiti, at least 1.5 million, need emergency aid “urgently”, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned this Friday, which lists limited access to drinking water, health and nutrition, interruption of education and protection services during pandemic and hurricanes as the main causes.

The UN agency has been “alarmed” by the “terrible” humanitarian situation of children and their families in Haiti, which has deteriorated “rapidly” since the beginning of this year. During the first three months of 2021 alone, the number of admissions of children with severe acute malnutrition in health centers in Haiti has increased by 26 percent compared to last year, UNICEF has revealed.

“This is the worst humanitarian crisis the country has faced in recent years and it is deteriorating week after week,” said the UNICEF representative in Haiti, Bruno Maes.

“The lives of many children depend on humanitarian aid and essential items, such as vaccines, syringes, medicines and therapeutic food,” he continued, before emphasizing that “when gangs fight in the street and bullets fly, it is difficult to reach the most vulnerable families with these life-saving supplies. “

“Unless safe passage is guaranteed to humanitarian organizations, thousands of affected children will continue with little or no help,” he warned.

UNICEF is “deeply concerned” about the context of violence in Haiti. Although the organization has life-saving supplies in the country, prolonged violence and instability could prevent the delivery and restocking of essential items for children, including vaccines, drugs and medical supplies, and treatment for those who suffer. malnutrition.

Since the beginning of June, new clashes have broken out between rival armed gangs in some urban areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince, causing hundreds of houses to be burned or damaged. According to UNICEF data, more than 15,000 women and children have been forced to flee their homes due to acts of violence in and around Port-au-Prince, 80 percent of them in the past four weeks alone.

Added to this is the assassination of the president, Jovenel Moise. The agency has expressed its concern that increased violence and insecurity after the assassination “could pose serious challenges for the humanitarian work of its teams on the ground and their ability to safely reach the most vulnerable children and families.”

This recent increase in violence comes amid a gradual increase in COVID-19 cases in Haiti. As of the end of June, more than 18,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 425 deaths had been reported. According to UNICEF, the main hospitals dedicated to the pandemic are saturated and suffering from oxygen shortages. Some patients are dying because armed gang violence prevents ambulances from reaching these centers with oxygen and emergency treatment.

In addition, Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has not received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, something “unacceptable” for Maes. “Gang violence in and around Port-au-Prince is likely to further delay the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines and make their distribution across the country more complicated,” he lamented, stressing that, in amid the increase in coronavirus cases in Haiti, “any more day without vaccines puts the lives of hundreds of people in danger.”

For this reason, UNICEF has called for an end to gang violence in Haiti and has called for “safe access” to reach affected families with humanitarian aid in the worst-hit areas of Port-au-Prince.

By 2021, UNICEF needs some € 41.2 million to meet the humanitarian needs of 1.5 million people in Haiti, including more than 700,000 children. So far, this humanitarian appeal is only 31 percent covered.

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