UN urgently appeals for funding to help Haitian children, farmers hit by earthquake

By Jacqueline Charles

The United Nation’s leading child agency says it urgently needs $122.2 million to scale up its emergency response in Haiti, where 1.6 million people, including 800,000 children, face one of the most complex humanitarian crises in years following last month’s deadly earthquake.

“Before the earthquake, children were already suffering from high rates of malnutrition, displacement caused by gang-related violence and the secondary impacts of COVID-19,” said UNICEF Haiti Representative Bruno Maes. “But right now, the humanitarian needs of Haitian children are more acute than ever as entire families have lost everything, including houses, schools, access to water and health facilities. Many human lives depend on how much humanitarian aid we will be able to provide — and how quickly.”

Maes said the new appeal is nearly three times higher than the original emergency funding requested for Haiti at the start of the year.

Days after the powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti’s southwestern peninsula on Aug. 14, the United Nations launched a separate appeal on behalf of its efforts in Haiti. It asked for $187.3 million to provide shelter, water, sanitation, emergency health care, food, protection and early recovery assistance to a half-million quake victims.

On Friday, another member of the U.N. system said it also needed help addressing Haiti’s humanitarian crisis. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization urgently appealed for $20 million in new funding to help rural Haitians resume critical backyard gardening and small-scale farming and avoid a worsening of the food crisis.

A newly released analysis shows that about 980,000 people in the three departments of the country that bore the brunt of the 7.2 magnitude quake— Grand’Anse, Nippes and Sud — along with inhabitants in the southeast, are now living with acute food insecurity. As the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti has long been vulnerable on multiple fronts. But among the most recent factors to blame are the destruction in the quake of markets, rural roads, storage and processing facilities, dairies, and irrigation systems and additional damage brought by Tropical Storm Grace, which hit days after the quake.

The earthquake killed more than 2,200 people, injured more than 12,200 and left more than 129,000 homes either damaged or destroyed. The disaster was compounded by heavy rains from Grace and struck Haiti as the country was reeling from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise and dealing with an escalation of gang violence that displaced 19,000 people and affected another 1.5 million.

“On top of a succession of disasters and crises, this latest double whammy has left people’s ability to produce and to access food for their families and communities in tatters,” said FAO Representative in Haiti Jose Luis Fernandez. “With the October winter planting season just around the corner, we can’t wait to invest in rebooting agricultural production. That must happen immediately, but we are hampered by low levels of funding for this critical work.”

Even before the earthquake, Haiti faced one of the world’s biggest food crises as it wrestled with poverty, civil unrest, political and economic instability combined with recurring natural disasters and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those challenges over the past two years have also prevented more than 3 million children from attending school for months at a time, Maes said.

In earthquake-affected areas, preliminary assessments by the Ministry of Education indicate that hundreds of schools were either destroyed or heavily damaged, affecting an estimated 100,000 children.

“As schools open this September in Haiti, it will be a big challenge for thousands of children to resume their education in the earthquake-struck regions. Along with the Ministry of Education, our teams on the ground are working against the clock to install temporary learning spaces. Children and teachers need equipment, materials and psychosocial support to overcome the traumatic experiences they have been through,” Maes said.

With thousands of more displaced people sleeping in the open, and water and sanitation infrastructure suffering extensive damage, vulnerable populations are increasingly exposed to the risks of waterborne diseases and acute respiratory infections, including COVID-19, UNICEF said.

In March, the U.N. estimated that 4.4 million Haitians suffered from not having enough food, while 217,000 children suffered from acute malnutrition. Also 2.95 million people, including 1.2 million children and 400,000 pregnant women and adolescent girls, required emergency health care. The effects of the recent earthquake are expected to further exacerbate the problems.

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