UNICEF Ireland Ambassador and international golfing star Rory McIlroy makes first trip to Haiti

UNICEF Ireland Ambassador Rory McIlroy is currently in Haiti on his first ever field visit with UNICEF Ireland. Since becoming an Ambassador for the international children’s organisation, Rory has been very keen to make a field visit. This week Rory has had the chance to see for himself what the lives of children in Haiti have been like since the earthquake in January 2010.

On day one of his visit, Rory’s first stop was to a UNICEF supported school – the Ecole Joyeux Lutins in Port au Prince. Here Rory found out more about the work UNICEF is doing with young children to prevent cholera. Hand washing plays a critical role in Haiti’s fight against the cholera outbreak that has sickened 290,000 and killed over 5,000 people since October 2010.

UNICEF is supporting more than 1,000 cholera treatment centres throughout the country and is rehabilitating water systems in Port-au-Prince and in vulnerable rural areas.

Children as young as 3 and 4 showed Ireland’s newest UNICEF Ambassador how they wash their hands properly to help prevent the spread of this deadly disease. Today I met with young children who are learning the simplest of ways to protect themselves and their families from cholera” said the UNICEF Ireland Ambassador. “With the rainy season starting here in Haiti, I’ve been learning about the different ways UNICEF is working to reduce the spread of cholera and protecting families who are living in the camps” he continued.

The school Rory visited was completely destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.  It has since been built back with UNICEF’s support into a semi-permanent state, which means it will last for up to 10 years and is earthquake-proof.   To date, 128 semi-permanent schools have been built in Port-au-Prince with UNICEF’s support. That’s 613 classrooms benefiting more than 30,000 children
Rory also visited a UNICEF supported Nutrition and Health Clinic in Saint Elizabeth. Here he saw a specially set up cholera clinic where two young children were receiving treatment.  At the clinic, Rory met new mum Sainvie Edeline and her 9-day old baby son Gyvenoly Darson Sainvie. Edeline was visiting the clinic for a checkup and getting information on proper nutrition and feeding.  During his visit to the clinic, Rory watched on as a baby – six month old, Dume Cluviens was weighed by the clinic nurse to ensure he was thriving and at a healthy weight.

Later that day, Rory visited Tabarre, and spent the afternoon playing with nearly 200 children who use the UNICEF supported ‘child friendly space’ in the town.  Here Rory got involved with the several activities that were ongoing at the space including knitting, sketching and singing.  Rory also helped distribute bars of soap to the children as they left for the afternoon – again, highlighting the ongoing cholera prevention work that is being undertaken by UNICEF and its partners throughout Haiti.
The children were very happy to see Rory but behind the fun and excitement of Rory’s visit to the child friendly space was the message that children need the space and opportunity to play and take part in recreational activities in a safe and caring environment.   Throughout Haiti, UNICEF is supporting over 350 child-friendly spaces that reach over 94,000 children every day.

“The chance that these children are getting to be kids and enjoy themselves is so important for their well-being” said the UNICEF Ireland Ambassador.  “Being here at this child-friendly space gives them the chance to play with their friends and enjoy themselves – helping them escape for a little while every day from the difficult situations they are growing up in.”
Speaking about his first field visit, Rory said that it had been a real eye-opening experience for him. From what he witnessed, he was particularly impressed with the dignity and the strength of the children he met during his trip.  “Nothing could prepare me for meeting the children in Haiti and I am truly amazed by how happy they are.  As this was my first visit, getting to find out more about UNICEF’s work and meeting with UNICEF staff in areas such as health, water and education has been very important for me.  The everyday things that we take for granted at home in Ireland are so longed for in Haiti.  I hope my visit will bring much needed awareness and funds for UNICEF for children not only in Haiti but across the world.”

Thanking Rory for making the time to do a UNICEF visit, UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Melanie Verwoerd said “ During his time on the ground in Port au Prince, he has made such a phenomenal impact. Rory is a great Ambassador for our work, helping to draw attention to the ongoing plight of children and young people living in Haiti and we are extremely thankful to Rory for making the time to visit Haiti this week.”

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