Of the 3 million affected, UNICEF estimates that half of the earthquake's victims are children
NEW YORK, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Despite heavy damages to its own offices in Port-au-Prince, UNICEF is ready to provide immediate support to the estimated 3 million victims of the unfolding humanitarian crisis following the earthquake that hit Haiti yesterday. UNICEF officials estimate that half of those affected by the quake are children.
In coordination with other UN agencies present on the ground, UNICEF will provide supplies to allow access to adequate sanitation, safe water and basic health care. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF has already released $500,000 to assist in the emergency response.
"Children are always the most vulnerable population in any natural disaster, and UNICEF is there for them before, during and after any emergency situation," said Caryl Stern, President and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "More funds are urgently needed to provide safe water, temporary shelter systems, hygiene kits, essential medicines, water purification tablets, portable toilets and family kits containing blankets and soap."
In addition to emergency supplies and funding, UNICEF advisors and psycho-social materials have been dispatched to help reduce the traumatic effects of the disaster and ensure that children are able to continue learning and studying. The creation of safe, child-friendly recreation areas is essential for Haitian children while their caretakers turn to rebuilding their lives.
The situation for children and women in Haiti was already one of great vulnerability before the earthquake hit the island. Haiti is one of the poorest countries on earth – it ranks 148 out of 179 countries on UNDP's Human Development Index, and is struggling to recover from years of violence, insecurity and instability and has a long history of being struck by one natural disaster after another.
"The effects of the global food crisis and particularly strong hurricane seasons have left Haiti dangerously vulnerable," said Tamar Hahn, UNICEF Regional Communications Officer for the Americas and Caribbean. "This catastrophe will only exacerbate the already critical situation for the people of Haiti, especially women and children."
Haiti's income distribution is highly skewed, with only one in every 50 Haitians holding a steady, wage-earning job. Access to services is highly unequal: the poorer the child, the less likely he or she is to have access to basic rights. Far too many Haitian children and women are engaged in a struggle for their rights to basic necessities like adequate nutrition, clean water, education and protection from violence.
UNICEF began operations in Haiti in 1949 and works directly with government ministries to develop long term solutions to problems caused by poverty, the lack of basic health care, education and sanitation services.
Haiti has the second-highest population density in the western hemisphere. Four out of every ten children live in homes with mud floors or in severely overcrowded conditions, with more than five people living in each room. With an estimated 46 percent of the population currently under the age of 18, the struggle of Haitian children reverberates throughout society, and is bound to have serious consequences far into the future.
With so many people living in such close quarters – and with access to clean water and sanitary conditions severely compromised even in the best of times – vulnerability to the spread of life-threatening waterborne diseases skyrocket when a natural disaster strikes. This is often compounded by difficulties in delivering much needed food, medical supplies and protection services. Children, as is too often the case, are most likely to suffer the consequences.
To donate to the ongoing emergency relief efforts in Haiti and the Caribbean region, please visit: www.unicefusa.org/haitiquake or call 1-800-4UNICEF.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. Working in over 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.
UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress—the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from 13 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008. But still, 24,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
SOURCE U.S. Fund for UNICEF