NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–30 March 2010 – On the eve of an international donor’s conference for Haiti at the United Nations, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages International, Plan International, World Vision International, Oxfam and UNICEF have stressed the importance of ensuring children, young people and their families are at the centre of all rebuilding efforts.
Haitian children and young people aged 5 to 24 shared their views on issues affecting them such as gender, disabilities, violence and abuse, disaster risk reduction, and their own rights and responsibilities post-earthquake as their country emerges from recent earthquakes at a series of focus group discussions held throughout the country between 26 February and 5 March.
Humanitarian organizations working on children’s issues maintain that providing Haiti’s youngest citizens with a strong voice in the discussion around the future of their country and enabling them to actively participate in all aspects of it will be crucial for a successful transformation of Haiti.
In a recent post disaster risk assessment study with more than 1,000 children, many said that their priority was to return to school and continue their education as soon as possible. “I want the rights of children to be respected and all children to know what their rights are. I also want everyone to have access to education,” says quake survivor Daphmika, 15, in Port-au-Prince.
Children and adolescents under 15 make up nearly 40 per cent of the population in Haiti and young people from 15 to 24 account for another 20 per cent. Even before the earthquake the needs of many Haitian children were not met. Nearly one in every fourteen children did not live to see their fifth birthday and children who survived were afflicted by high rates of malnutrition. About 50 percent of all Haitian children did not attend primary school and only 18 per cent of boys and 21 per cent of girls attended secondary school.
The government of Haiti has indicated its commitment to prioritizing the needs of children and youth, but the earthquake has dramatically complicated the difficult task of assuring the well-being of Haiti’s youngest citizens. Many of the more than one million children in the earthquake zone were already in vulnerable circumstances and now face increased risks due to loss, separation from, or displacement of their families, malnutrition, illness, psychological trauma and abuse.
Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages International, Plan International, World Vision International, Oxfam and UNICEF stress that Haiti is a children’s emergency and have been providing children and families with emergency relief supplies including shelter, food, medical supplies, water and sanitation supplies, and child protection services. The establishment of tent schools has given children the opportunity to continue their education and experience a sense of safety and normalcy.
If Haiti is to emerge from disaster as a place where children and families can survive and thrive, a holistic and sustained internationally-funded response that creates a strong child protection system and provides access to quality health care and education will be needed. Children and young people must be acknowledged as resourceful, as agents of change and as protagonists in their own development.
Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages International, Plan International, World Vision International, Oxfam and UNICEF are closely collaborating on the ground and internationally to provide consistent and coordinated support to Haiti’s children and its future.