NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–19 July 2010 – Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi visited Haiti to spotlight the challenges facing children six months after the country was struck by a devastating earthquake in his role as a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador.
During his one-day visit last week, Mr. Messi stopped at a camp called Carrefour Aviation, home to 50,000 Haitians who lost their homes during the 12 January earthquake.
The magnitude-7.0 quake claimed more than 200,000 lives and left 1.3 million more people homeless in Haiti. Countless buildings, including Government facilities, hospitals and schools, were also destroyed.
He also met with troops serving with the Argentine contingent of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, to hear first-hand about the peacekeepers’ efforts to run a hospital in the wake of the disaster.
The soccer player, who plays for FC Barcelona and more recently with the Argentine national team in the World Cup, then joined UNICEF staff to hear about their programmes to help the Haitian Government and its people after the catastrophe.
Mr. Messi, 23, has seen his relatively short career take him to the peak of soccer, having been named both the FIFA World Player of the Year and winner of the Golden Ball award for the best European footballer of the year, both in 2009.
UNICEF said in a press release that there are few places in the world today where children are as vulnerable as they are in Haiti. More than 1.2 million of the impoverished Caribbean nation’s children are exposed to exploitation and abuse, while some 800,000 are living in tents at campsites which lack adequate sanitation.
Half a year after the earthquake, the humanitarian needs of people affected by it remain immense, UN agencies and their partners said in a report issued last week, which also takes stock of the response effort and presents lessons learned from the challenging and complex emergency.
“It is clear that the needs are still immense, and the challenges facing the response operation potentially daunting,” said the agencies, which are members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making of key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners.
“Foremost amongst these challenges is shelter – working with the Government to identify durable solutions for the secure settlement of the displaced population,” the agencies said in their report, entitled “Haiti Earthquake Response, 6-Month Report,” which was launched in Haiti on 12 July.