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UNICEF says youth in Haiti remain optimistic amid worsening instability


The Unit­ed Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund (UNICEF) says the youth in Haiti re­main op­ti­mistic amid wors­en­ing in­sta­bil­i­ty and that the cri­sis in the French-speak­ing Caribbean Com­mu­ni­ty (CARI­COM) coun­try has left chil­dren among the most vul­ner­a­ble to ex­treme vi­o­lence, mal­nu­tri­tion, pover­ty, and col­laps­ing so­cial sys­tems.

The UN agency said it sur­veyed over 3,500 young peo­ple in ear­ly June, the ma­jor­i­ty of whom be­lieve their rights are rarely or nev­er re­spect­ed.

“When I ask chil­dren if their rights in Haiti are be­ing re­spect­ed, the an­swer is of­ten a re­sound­ing: ‘no”,” said Samarre Terci­er Mar­cellin, Youth Ad­vo­cate for UNICEF Haiti.

“Chil­dren are abused, die of dis­eases and mal­nu­tri­tion that could be cured or pre­vent­ed, and lack ac­cess to qual­i­ty learn­ing. This needs to change,” he added.

But de­spite this stark re­al­i­ty, a shock­ing ma­jor­i­ty of youth re­spon­dents to the UNICEF sur­vey still be­lieve the fu­ture of chil­dren is brighter than it is in the present.

The UN said Haiti con­tin­ues to suf­fer a se­ries of po­lit­i­cal, so­cio-eco­nom­ic and se­cu­ri­ty crises.

Ri­val gangs are bat­tling for con­trol of ter­ri­to­ry across the cap­i­tal Port-au-Prince forc­ing thou­sands of peo­ple to flee their homes, said the UN, adding that this has fur­ther ex­ac­er­bat­ed pover­ty and se­vere hunger across the French-speak­ing Caribbean coun­try.

The UN’s Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) and the World Food Pro­gramme (WFP) added Haiti to the list of coun­tries of “great­est con­cern due to the es­ca­la­tion of vi­o­lence by armed groups,” in their most re­cent out­look re­port for the months of June to Oc­to­ber 2024.

FAO and WFP have al­so iden­ti­fied Haiti as a “famine or risk of famine hotspot,” with over five mil­lion peo­ple now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing acute food in­se­cu­ri­ty, the high­est num­bers seen since the 2010 earth­quake.

The num­ber of dis­placed peo­ple in Haiti has al­so great­ly in­creased in re­cent months, from 362,000 in March to 580,000 cur­rent­ly, ac­cord­ing to the UN’s In­ter­na­tion­al Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM).

It said more than 100,000 left Port-au-Prince alone due to the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion.

UNICEF said this sit­u­a­tion has had grave con­se­quences on the chil­dren of Haiti. Of the 2,500 peo­ple killed or in­jured from Jan­u­ary to March, many of them were chil­dren, it said.

“Each day, chil­dren are be­ing in­jured or killed,” UNICEF Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Cather­ine Rus­sell told the UN Se­cu­ri­ty Coun­cil in April, adding that “some are be­ing re­cruit­ed, or they are join­ing armed groups out of sheer des­per­a­tion”.

The UN said an es­ti­mat­ed 600,000 of the 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple fac­ing emer­gency lev­els of acute food in­se­cu­ri­ty are chil­dren and many schools have shut down due to at­tacks, leav­ing thou­sands of chil­dren stripped of their right to ed­u­ca­tion.

De­spite the dev­as­tat­ing con­di­tions, many youths re­main hope­ful. Ac­cord­ing to the UNICEF sur­vey, 24 per cent are very hope­ful, and 41 per cent are at least a lit­tle. Four­teen per cent said they are not very hope­ful, and just 10 per cent re­port­ed no hope at all, the sur­vey says.

When asked about what would al­low the coun­try to change the most, 40 per cent cit­ed bet­ter ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, 24 per cent eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment and pover­ty re­duc­tion, 19 per cent se­cu­ri­ty around the coun­try and sev­en per cent im­proved health ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey.

The UN said hu­man­i­tar­i­an ef­forts have been in­ten­si­fied as a re­sult of the wors­en­ing con­di­tions.

It said WFP has de­liv­ered 43,600 hot meals to near­ly 13,500 dis­placed peo­ple in Port-au-Prince since June 1.

The UN said WFP has al­so al­lo­cat­ed $1 mil­lion as part of its so­cial pro­tec­tion and re­silience ac­tiv­i­ties to ap­prox­i­mate­ly 65,000 peo­ple across the coun­try.

There have al­so been joint ef­forts on be­half of the Hait­ian au­thor­i­ties and na­tion­al and in­ter­na­tion­al or­ga­ni­za­tions to pre­pare Hait­ian civil­ians for the hur­ri­cane sea­son that be­gan on June 1, the UN said.



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