Every morning, tens of thousands of Haitian children wake up to a hazardous reality. Their homes and schools have collapsed. Their rubble-strewn cities present added risks to their health and well-being. Their daily lives—which in this, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, were rarely carefree—have acquired further levels of deprivation, uncertainty and terrible loss.
The devastating January 12 earthquake—a 7-magnitude shock that left more than 3 million people in Port-au-Prince, Léogâne, Petit Goave, Jacmel and surrounding areas in desperate need—has exacted a heavy toll on Haiti's children. They have lost family members, friends, belongings and familiar surroundings. In the midst of debris and displacement, they are more vulnerable to disease, injury, abuse and exploitation. Meanwhile, their future opportunities are also in jeopardy, as Haiti's education system lies in ruins.
January 27, 2010, Port-au-Prince, Haiti: 1-month-old twin baby girls, Julie and Julianne, lay in a water bucket while their mother washes clothes at the camp in the university. She also has another daughter and says she has no food to give to her family. Credit: Adriana Zehbrauskas / Polaris
The scale of this disaster is unprecedented in Haiti, and the needs of children and families have far exceeded available supplies and logistical capacity. An estimated 200,000 families (1 million people) are homeless. The majority are living in overcrowded, informal settlements with poor sanitation; unable to access the basic necessities—food, water, shelter and health services—without assistance. Others have fled to the countryside, increasing the burden on impoverished rural communities.
Save the Children has worked with families, communities, government and civil society in Haiti since 1978, in both development and emergency contexts. Well-positioned to respond, the organization rapidly mobilized what has since become its largest relief effort ever in the Western Hemisphere. Over the last three months and in coordination with Haitian authorities, the international community, local and international organizations and communities, Save the Children has reached more then 553,000 children and adults with lifesaving and life-sustaining assistance.
January 19, 2010, Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Displaced families take shelter at the Church of Latter Days Saints in Port- au-Prince, Haiti, where Save the Children has launched child-friendly space activities. Child-friendly spaces provide normalcy, structure and emotional healing to children who are suffering from the loss and devastation they have experienced. Credit: Antonio Bolfo
Save the Children is committed to helping Haitian children through this current crisis and to assisting their country as it builds a better environment and brighter future for its youngest and most vulnerable citizens. The organization will sustain humanitarian relief to ensure children's survival during these critical early months and the rainy season. In the emergency phase, Save the Children plans to reach 800,000 people over 6 months—among them 470,000 children. At the same time, it is planning for the long term with a strong commitment to enabling Haitians to help themselves through a multiyear (3-5) relief-to-recovery effort comprising health and nutrition, education, child protection, shelter, water and sanitation, food security and family livelihood programs. This plan will meet the needs of children and families, while strengthening the capacity of Haitians and their institutions—governmental and nongovernmental alike—to recover, move beyond this crisis and lead and manage their own future.