Delivering supplies and protecting children in the Haiti earthquake zone
NEW YORK, USA, 20 January 2010 – A powerful aftershock struck Haiti early this morning, adding to the stress of children and families affected by the 12 January earthquake there but apparently causing little further damage. Relief operations are ongoing.
The disaster, now in its second week, has had a two-fold impact beyond its dire toll in deaths and injuries: It has both wiped out the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Haitians and crippled virtually all critical services and infrastructure needed for aid distribution.
UNICEF's two biggest challenges are to unplug aid supply and distribution bottlenecks and to coordinate among the various humanitarian actors on the ground so all those in need get help.
Together with its partners, UNICEF is addressing the logistical obstacles. Distribution of safe water, food, hygiene kits and other life-saving provisions for the displaced population has greatly improved in Port-au-Prince, the hard-hit capital.
|A toddler is comforted by a caregiver at a feeding centre run by the Sisters of Mercy, in Port-au-Prince. Many parents of children who came to the centre before the earthquake have not returned since and are feared dead.|
"We are deploying our efforts to cover the entire city," said UNICEF Water and Sanitation Specialist Julien Atchade. "We have some priority interventions – orphanages, health clinics and a few other strategic points. And certainly the major encampments, where we have already 72 water distribution points."
Because the youngest are the most vulnerable, UNICEF is also setting up nutrition support for children under two years of age. Therapeutic and supplementary feeding for undernourished children is on the way.
UNICEF and its partners are focused, as well, on providing for children who are lost or have been orphaned or separated from their families. Safe spaces for all children under five should be available by the end of the week. So far, safe spaces have been identified for about 1,000 children.
|Babies lie in a feeding centre in Port-au-Prince. Because the youngest are the most vulnerable, UNICEF is setting up nutrition support for children under two years of age in the earthquake zone.|
Tracing and registration of unaccompanied children has begun. It is crucial that they be reunited with their families or other caregivers who are known to them. Existing facilities for these children are strained to the limit.
"We are still having problems with finding food, medicines and diapers for the children," said Edith Salome, caretaker of an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. "And we are a bit tight here, because before we had a big house. But the house collapsed, so now we are living in two small rooms."
Supply airlift under way
Meanwhile, supplies continue to come in from outside the country by air and overland. Today, for example, 90 metric tonnes of emergency aid left the airport in Billund, Denmark, for Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic; from there, the supplies will be trucked into Haiti along a newly established humanitarian corridor.
Also today, 5.5 metric tonnes of Haiti-bound water bladders and chlorine tablets left the United Kingdom for the Dominican Republic aboard a flight donated by Thomas Cook Airways. Additional supply flights are scheduled for the rest of this week.
For those who have lost everything, of course, help cannot come soon enough.
UNICEF Regional Communication Specialist Tamar Hahn has been serving as the agency's chief spokesperson in the quake zone since last week. Click here to read our unicef.ca blog on Tamar Hahn.