Haiti: violence and the resurgence of cholera threaten the start of the school year

Although the start of the school year took place on Monday, October 3, the majority of schools have not yet reopened.

Port-au-Prince/Panama/New York, October 7, 2022 – At the start of the school year in Haiti, social instabilities, gang violence and a resurgence of cholera could prevent more than 2.4 million children from returning to school, UNICEF warned today.

The worrying spiral of deschooling

Although the school year started on Monday, October 3, the majority of schools have not reopened and will remain closed if the violence does not subside. Given the various calls from civil society demanding that students, parents and teachers be able to move around safely and asking for the creation of environments conducive to learning, the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP ) expects a gradual return to school.

Education is children’s pathway to a better future. It is imperative that schools remain open and that children can attend them without fear” , said Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. ” Repeated school closures fuel a perverse spiral – an out-of-school child is a child at risk of forced recruitment by armed groups, which would contribute to the violence that keeps schools closed. »

The resurgence of cholera threatens the already weakened school system

The resurgence of cholera may also have an impact on children’s right to education. Since the report of cholera cases on October 2, 152 people are suspected of suffering from the disease, 5 deaths have been declared and 12 positive cases have been confirmed. In addition, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced the death of two children as a result of this pathology.

Violence pushes families and their children into forced displacement

Surveys conducted by the MENFP and UNICEF in June show that as a result of the violence, more than 200 schools were partially or totally closed in Port-au-Prince, and nearly one in four schools was invaded by armed groups. Over the past three weeks, 27 other schools have been attacked and looted by armed gangs, depriving children of their right to education.

In the metropolitan area of ​​Port-au-Prince, armed groups are occupying school buildings, further reducing access to education for Haitian children and adolescents. The increase in conflicts in the country has also forced families to flee their homes.– some of them seeking refuge in school buildings – and moved children considerable distances from their schools.

More than 6,000 households, or about 20,000 people including nearly 8,200 children, have been forced to flee urban areas for their safety. Some families live with relatives or host families, while others have moved to provincial towns.

Schools: a cornerstone of child well-being

For children living in the midst of social unrest, schools are more than places of learning by offering support from teachers and peers, access to school mealsas well as’a sense of normalcy and psychosocial support, essential for their health and well-being.

Malnutrition, caused by various factors – including violence – is also constantly on the rise. The latest data collected show thatin Cité Soleil, the poorest urban area of ​​the capital, one child in five under the age of five suffers from undernourishment.

The premises of UNICEF and its partners looted

The looting of the premises of UNICEF and its partners will have an additional impact on the education sector in Haiti. On October 6, groups of people entered UNICEF warehouses in Les Cayes, in the south of Haiti. They looted medical and nutritional supplies, water system repair equipment and school materials, pre-positioned to meet the humanitarian needs of 320,000 children, reducing their access to an adequate educational environment.

If financial investments are not made urgently, the crisis is likely to worsen significantly “, said Mr Maes. ” We have already experienced this in Haiti. Time is running out to change course. Immediate resources are needed to ensure that every Haitian child can have the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. »

At the end of 2021, UNICEF appealed for $97 million to provide humanitarian assistance to 950,000 people, including 520,000 children, in Haiti. To date, UNICEF has received only a third of these funds.

Haiti: violence and the resurgence of cholera threaten the start of the school year – UNICEF