Of Haiti’s population of almost 11 million, 60 percent live in rural areas. Half are under 18 years of age. Job opportunities are small and three out of four live in poverty. Discrimination against girls and women is widespread.
Haiti is still strongly affected by the huge devastation following the 2010 earthquake, which was exacerbated when Haiti was hit by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Matthew was the strongest hurricane since 1964, leaving 600 dead, 200,000 destroyed homes and 1.4 million homeless . Plan International has focused on meeting the immediate needs of a hard-pressed population.
In addition to widespread poverty, Haiti is a country plagued by crime and violence. Many Haitians choose to leave the country to seek opportunities and security elsewhere. Corruption and weak public institutions mean, among other things, limited access to public care and quality education.
One in fourteen children dies before their fifth birthday according to statistics from UNICEF 2019. To give children a good start in life, Plan International prioritises giving the youngest children a safe, healthy and educational everyday life in our safe places for children By handing out scholarships and build schools, we work for more children to complete primary school. Plan International also works to give families the opportunity to support themselves through projects that provide young vocational education that is adapted to the needs of the local labor market. We also support adults in establishing savings and loan groups.
By awarding scholarships and building schools, we work to ensure that more children complete compulsory school. Plan International also works to give families the opportunity to support themselves through projects that provide young vocational training that suits the local labor market. We also support adults in establishing savings and loan groups.
Sexual violence against girls
When social security and safety nets are broken, men’s violence against girls and women increases. In Haiti, high levels of male sexual violence against girls and women , including by UN staff , have been reported in the wake of the earthquake and hurricane.
Discrimination against girls and women is widespread in public society and in homes and families. One of the biggest challenges is to make schools free from sexual harassment and abuse of girls. Schools are also a place for sexual exploitation, where girls are exploited in prostitution.
Almost every fifth girl is married. After the 2010 earthquake , child marriage increased, which is common after disasters when children are more unprotected and vulnerable. Girls who have been sexually abused may be forced to marry their perpetrator. According to UNFPA, 1 in 3 people giving birth is under 20 years old.
focus on education and freedom from violence
Plan International has been working in Haiti since 1973. We work with the government of Haiti to prevent children’s vulnerability and support children to reach their full potential. We focus on the biggest challenges for the most vulnerable children, especially girls in isolated regions. Therefore, we prioritize that:
- Ensure that the most vulnerable children have access to quality education.
- Prevent violence and exploitation and support vulnerable children.
- Prevent teenage pregnancies.
Following Hurricane Matthew 2016, Plan International Haiti mobilized all its available resources. In the first phase, we distributed hygiene packages, food and clean water and tents to families who had lost their homes. In the next phase, protection mechanisms were established to reduce the risk of violence or abuse against children who are in a vulnerable situation. Then we set up a learning center where the children were allowed to be children in a chaotic everyday life and process their trauma together with competent staff.
Rain gauges make children safer
Haiti is one of the countries hardest hit by hurricanes. But the tricks for more people to cope and the recovery to go faster do not always have to be so complicated.
Tropical storms regularly sweep across Haiti and the country is also hit by floods and strong earthquakes. In the mid-1980s, deforestation began to take off in earnest. As a result, slopes are exposed and the roots of the trees no longer hold soil and water. The floods that come after the storms destroy crops and kill livestock.
Hurricanes also impair children’s educational opportunities. When Hurricane Matthew hit the country in October 2016, at least 300 schools were closed. 100,000 children could no longer go to school, according to UNICEF.
Plan International is working on a program for Safe Schools. There, together with students, parents, teachers and other school staff, we try to strengthen both the school buildings and the people’s opportunities to cope with a hurricane. We build safer buildings, make sure that everyone knows how to act if something happens and work out action plans for emergencies. In the southeastern part of Haiti, we have installed rain gauges that students use to keep track of how much water is coming. This allows them to predict floods.
Children may participate in committees to identify risks and prevent injuries. Some schools have also been equipped with colorful flags to inform students and others living in the community when a warning has been issued. The flags are green, yellow, orange and red to indicate how great the risk is.
– Plan International has really helped us and I am proud to teach others about the colors of the flags so that they can act before something happens. We learn about preparation, what to do during a hurricane and how to handle the situation afterwards, says 15-year-old Mickensie.
Carnival for girls’ rights
I want to be a role model for all girls in Haiti and help families send the girls to school – and let them complete their education.
Garenchana, 16, youth representative
In collaboration with youth groups and local authorities, Plan International has highlighted the importance of education and highlighted the obstacles that girls in particular must overcome in order to complete their education. During the annual Jacmel Carnival, Garenchana and her youth group received a lot of attention in the national media with their demands for respect for the situation of Haitian girls.
Blankets, food and hygiene come first
We had no money to buy kitchen equipment so we could not cook for our children. And without the blankets, I do not know how we would have survived the cold after the hurricane.
Josianne, mother from Les Irois
In the early days of Hurricane Matthew, we focused on helping families regain some control over their lives. 1,538 families in Les Irois received hygiene packages, blankets and other necessities to cover their most basic needs.
Facts about Haiti
Population: 10 million
Life expectancy: 63 years
Infant mortality rate: 51 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 57.2%
Proportion of women in Parliament: 2.5%