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Thirty-three year-old Elmita with her 1-1/2 year-old son Louencie. Elmita lives beside the Save the Children health clinic at the Gaston Margrrom camp. Her son is enrolled in the nutrition program. Photo credit: Susan Warner.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (January 7, 2011) — One year after the historic Haitian earthquake, Save the Children says the only way to ensure Haitian children and families face a brighter future is for Haitians and the international community to keep building on large-scale efforts to deliver that goal.
“This anniversary, we’re all confronted with big questions: has enough been done for Haiti, its people, and particularly its children? The answer is twofold: no, not yet — and, we must ramp up our work now,” says Gary Shaye, Save the Children’s country director in Haiti.
He adds: “Responding to a disaster of this magnitude that devastated the capital city of the hemisphere’s poorest nation has presented massive challenges both to Haitians and the international community. And yet Save the Children and others have worked to help millions meet essential needs such as health, sanitation, education and shelter.”
In the past year, Save the Children has reached more than 870,000 Haitians — including half a million children — through health, nutrition, education, shelter, water and sanitation, emergency relief and protection programs. But this is just the start of the international humanitarian organization’s five-year strategy to work with Haitians to help them build a safer, healthier, and more hopeful future for their children.
“Today, many earthquake survivors have better access to clean water and health services than before this disaster, and an ever-growing number of children are back in school. Yet more than a million children and families continue living in camps, and that is an unacceptable way of life going forward,” Shaye says. “All of us on the ground know that we are years away from securing the brighter future for all Haitian children and families that we need to achieve.”
In order to rebuild and progress, Haiti faces many layers of challenges — including large ones that predate the earthquake. These include: the need to restore and expand Haitian national capacity, complex issues of land tenure, historically low rates of school enrollment, high child mortality, lack of health and sanitation infrastructure and the hemisphere’s highest rate of poverty.
At the same time, says Save the Children, a new Haitian government reinforced by the resilience of the Haitian people and bolstered by sustained international support and resources will have a unique opportunity: to build better health, education and other systems from the ground up. That would allow the nation to seize its own future, create better opportunities for its children and be more resilient in the face of future disaster.
“What Haiti doesn’t need now is what would amount to another level of tragedy — the international community withdrawing or reducing its support because of the great challenges being faced and need for time and continued efforts to address these issues,” Shaye said. “We all must partner with the next Haitian government and civil society to deliver both reconstruction and transformative development. Our goal is to help Haitians help themselves to build their own future.”
In the shorter term, issues such as camp security and cholera outbreaks present urgent needs that must continue to be addressed.
Camps are not safe places for children, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Save the Children has been working to increase children’s access to schools so that they can be in a supervised environment and learn about their rights while also building the skills they need to lead their nation forward. Save the Children will work to ensure children’s long term safety and well-being through support for children’s clubs and community-based child protection committees and networks.
The cholera emergency has required that additional resources be pulled away from earthquake relief to save lives from an epidemic that, while new to Haiti, is common among countries that have poor access to clean water and sanitation facilities. This epidemic originated in a community miles from where the earthquake struck, making it clear that all of Haiti is vulnerable to poverty-related emergencies.
Save the Children is treating cholera victims and has launched a campaign to reach 600,000 Haitians in six months through education outreach, prevention activities and supplies to help stem the current cholera epidemic and prevent future ones.
In the past year, supporters of Save the Children have already made significant progress possible by helping the agency reach 870,000 Haitians through:
- Health Care: Save the Children opened 80 clinics and nutrition support facilities in areas most affected by the earthquake.
- Education: Save the Children has directly supported more than 270 schools, enabling more than 45,000 children to return to their studies. In addition, 2,300 teachers received training in disaster risk reduction to be prepared if another earthquake struck.
- Child Protection: Save the Children established over 50 child-friendly spaces where children could play and start to regain a sense of normalcy in safe environments. More than 1,135 children have been reunited with their immediate or extended families through the Family Tracing Network which Save the Children leads.
- Shelter and Supplies: Save the Children provided toolkits to help families improve their living conditions and construct temporary and transitional shelter.
- Food Security and Livelihoods: Save the Children distributed food to almost 300,000 children and adults. By supporting farmers, fishermen and other small traders, Save the Children is contributing to economic recovery to ultimately support and sustain livelihoods.
- Water/Sanitation/Hygiene: Save the Children has reached almost 348,000 people with critical water, sanitation and hygiene programs. In the wake of the cholera outbreak, Save the Children has ramped up hygiene promotion activities in its program areas.
Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.