“Haiti, the most impoverished country in the Americas, has suffered a catastrophic tragedy,” says Veneman.
“Many lives have been lost and homes, schools, hospitals and businesses were destroyed. But there are signs of hope. Street vendors are selling food and clothing and shops are beginning to open in buildings that were not destroyed. People are literally building their lives back out of the rubble.”
The head of the international children’s agency visited a park in downtown Port-au-Prince where residents are living in makeshift shelters. UNICEF and partners are working together delivering food, clean water and basic health services.
“It was really encouraging to see that humanitarian supplies are getting to those who need them the most, especially women and children,” says Veneman.
“A massive immunization campaign is also underway providing life saving vaccines to prevent the spread of disease.”
Veneman also visited a residential child care centre which was damaged in the quake.
“There were an alarming number of children already without parental care prior to the earthquake. Now there are many more separated from their families. This is a children’s emergency.”
UNICEF is supporting safe centres where children can be registered, identified and eventually reunited with their families. These centres are also providing emotional support to these children, many of whom are traumatized by the tragic events.
Only about 50 per cent of Haiti’s children are enrolled in school and around 90 per cent of the schools in and around Port-au-Prince have been damaged or destroyed. Education was among the priority issues that Veneman discussed in her meeting with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
“Investing in education is an investment in the future of the country,” says Veneman.