*NOTE 1* Photos, BRoll and latest information available here
*NOTE 2* On-the-ground representatives available for interview (see Notes)
*NOTE 3* Find latest information about the impacts on Haiti here
DUBLIN/PORT-AU-PRINCE, Fri 7 Oct 2016 – We now estimate 1.3 million Haitians are affected after Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean this week; half of them are children.
The damage Hurricane Matthew caused is worse than we initially feared. Of the 1.3 million people affected, more than 350,000 of them urgently need help. Thousands of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Hundreds of people are thought to have died, but the number of fatalities remains unclear as flood waters recede. There is now an acute fear that waterborne diseases like deadly cholera will spread through the population. It is only six years since Haiti lost 200,000 people to earthquake.
UNICEF Ireland has formally launched an emergency appeal for the children of Haiti after assessments indicated we now need $5m to carry out essential life-saving work. We prioritise:
- Providing safe water and adequate sanitation to help prevent the spread of waterborne diseases;
- Restoring health services to help prevent and treat malnutrition among young children and provide essential vitamins and anti-diarrhoea treatment;
- Setting up temporary learning spaces so that children can resume their learning; and
- Supporting child protection services to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse.
The worst-affected parts of the country were cut off from humanitarian aid until yesterday, when we managed to get our first response teams across a temporary bridge and into the southern regions. We are currently transporting emergency supplies to the city of Les Cayes – one of the worst-affected urban centres – including chlorine tablets and plastic-sheeting that UNICEF hopes will ensure access to clean water, and prevent the outbreak of epidemics.
The aim is to provide what families actually need now, we are prioritising the people who are currently in temporary shelters. Our prepositioned supplies are already helping 10,000 survivors, with more assistance now on the way.
An estimated 500,000 children live in the Grande Anse and Grand South departments (regions) in southern Haiti, the areas worst hit by Hurricane Matthew, UNICEF said today. In those areas alone, 70 to 80 per cent of homes are damaged; there are 140 confirmed deaths and numbers continue to rise. 17,000 people are sheltering in temporary centres. Families are struggling to find safe water and adequate latrines. While the far West of the island is the worst hit, the South East and North East are also affected.
The heavy wind (up to 140km/h) and flooding damaged homes, schools and health centres. Basic social services, already fragile before Matthew, are now mostly wiped out. Trees and crops are gone in many places, which will likely result in food insecurity and a spike in child malnutrition.
A key concern for UNICEF after any disaster is child protection. We are working to identify children who have become separated from their families and reunite them with their loved ones before any harm can come to them – school is one of the places where children are safest. At least 156 schools are being used as shelters, hundreds more are flooded or destroyed. Temporary schools will need to be set-up.
“We’re still far from having a full picture of the extent of the damage,” said Marc Vincent, UNICEF’s Representative in Haiti. “The more information we can gather on the ground, the better we can support the government’s efforts to help children and their families cope with the scale of destruction.”
Meanwhile, UNICEF Communications Chief in Haiti, Cornelia Walther, said: “With every hour that passes more information about destruction and death is coming in. Every report is directly linked to the life and future of children in Haiti. This morning I felt darkness creeping up on me – until I remembered that we are moving forward towards relief for children on the ground.”
On-the-ground representatives are available for interview – Cornelia Walther in Port-au-Prince, Ruth Craig in Panama (Irish) and Executive Director Peter Power in Dublin.
Multimedia materials here. Communications in the region remain hugely challenging, but we hope to gather more photographs and video over the weekend. If you require additional material urgently, please make contact.
Latest updates and satellite photos of the hurricane can be found via the National Hurricane Centre here
UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. UNICEF has been operating for 70 years.
To learn about UNICEF and its work for children visit https://www.unicef.ie/
For more information, please contact:
Aedín Donnelly, Communications and Media Manager for UNICEF Ireland | firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: +353 1 809 0281 | Mob: +353 85 1395272
Photo credit: © UNICEF/UN034845/Abassi, UN-MINUSTAH