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Hati: gun violence worsens child malnutrition crisis

  • March 26, 2024
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Intensified by escalating insecurity, blocked roads and the collapse of the health system, the deadly nutritional crisis affecting Haiti is pushing children “to the edge of the precipice”, UNICEF warned on Tuesday.

“The clashes and instability in Haiti have consequences that go far beyond the risks associated with the violence itself. The situation is creating a health and nutritional crisis that could cost the lives of countless children,” said UNICEF head Catherine Russell. The number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Haiti increased by 19% in 2024, according to recent findings from analysis conducted by the Integrated Food Security Classification Framework (IPC).

In addition, 1.64 million people face acute food insecurity at Phase 4 (emergency level), increasing the risk of child wasting and malnutrition, particularly in eight regions of the country.

Violence limits access to care and help

The armed violence which hits the departments of Artibonite and West, where the capital Port-au-Prince is located, has the effect of limiting the delivery of aid and contributing to the collapse of a system already weakened health, all factors which imminently threaten the lives of more than 125,000 children exposed to a risk of severe acute malnutrition.

“Thousands of children stand on the brink, even as life-saving supplies are ready to be distributed as soon as the violence ends and roads and hospitals reopen,” said the UNICEF Executive Director. This nutritional crisis is entirely man-made. People in Haiti urgently need security so that they can access the vital services they depend on and so that aid workers can reach the children and families who desperately need them, says UNICEF.

Since January, the deterioration of the security situation in Haiti has continued to worsen the humanitarian crisis, which has had serious consequences on the UN agency’s ability to store, distribute and replenish necessary supplies. Earlier this month, one of 17 UNICEF containers was looted in the main port of Port-au-Prince. The container contained items critical to the survival of mothers, newborns and children, including resuscitators and associated equipment. The crisis in Haiti is taking a heavy toll on the country’s health care facilities.

Due to persistent insecurity, only two out of five hospitals are operational throughout the country, and only one out of four health centers operate in the Artibonite department, the country’s main rice-growing region. At the same time, the current insecurity in Port-au-Prince has made it extremely difficult to distribute health supplies and nutritional products to the estimated 58,000 children suffering from severe wasting in the metropolitan area. The Martissant road – the only humanitarian corridor linking Port-au-Prince to the southern regions – remains blocked, leaving around 15,000 malnourished children in the grip of a catastrophic situation.

The insecurity which affects a large part of the Haitian capital particularly hampers the delivery of ready-to-use therapeutic foods used to treat children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, as well as their resupply, suggesting breaks in the supply chain. supply and serious consequences if the situation persists. Displaced families are welcomed in a school in the center of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Protecting families and providing them with life-saving assistance Despite this extremely unstable environment, UNICEF is redoubling its efforts to protect families, particularly those finding themselves trapped and cut off from essential services, and providing them with life-saving assistance. In collaboration with the Government and its partners, the UN agency helps maintain national and regional systems and services and, in the most unstable areas, the local services on which children and families depend.

In this context, UNICEF cited three priorities: An acceleration of efforts by the international community to protect civilians, restore law and order on the streets, and ensure the safe movement of humanitarian workers and life-saving supplies, including ready-to-use therapeutic foods; An increase in flexible and immediate funding to meet the needs of the most vulnerable as the situation evolves, ensuring that aid reaches affected populations as quickly as possible; Protecting schools, hospitals and other essential infrastructure on which children depend, as well as safeguarding humanitarian spaces.