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Compliments of www.unicef.org
PORT-AU-PRINCE, 24 February 2004
– UNICEF said today that the violence in Haiti has sent the
country’s impoverished health and education systems into a
spiral that is threatening the lives of thousands of Haitian children.
Speaking from Port-au-Prince, UNICEF’s
representative in Haiti, Ms. Francoise Gruloos, said she is deeply
concerned that thousands of Haitian children can no longer access
basic public services.
“Children are always the most
vulnerable in conflict situations,” Ms. Gruloos said. “And
Haiti’s children were already extremely vulnerable. We need
to make sure these children are protected and not forgotten amidst
the civil disorder.”
in conflict situations shows that malnutrition and disease are the
major causes of child deaths during armed conflicts. When food is
scarce or water is contaminated during war, children usually suffer
most. Wars also erode health services and other social networks,
and destroy food sources and livelihoods.
UNICEF Executive Director Carol
Bellamy urged all parties to safeguard hospitals and schools. “Schools
should be treated as zones of peace,” said Bellamy, speaking
from New York. “Especially in times of crisis, schools can
provide a safe haven for children. Haiti’s children are depending
on adults to protect and preserve their future.” Schools are
being closed in several areas, UNICEF noted.
Even before the crisis, the situation
for Haitian children was among the worst in the world, with more
than one in 10 Haitian children dying before the age of five. More
than one-fifth of children are born underweight, only about half
receive routine immunization, and almost 40 per cent of children
under five suffer from acute respiratory infections.
Cases of young children victims
of rape are being reported by health services and human rights organizations.
UNICEF, in close consultation with WHO/PAHO and UNFPA, is seeking
to negotiate access through rebel blockades to deliver supplies
of medical equipment and drugs to health clinics that cater to pregnant
and nursing women and young children. It is also planning to transport
tons of nutritional dry-food, as well as shelter equipment for thousands
of families who have lost their homes, or were forced to flee the