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Haiti

Immigration and displacement: With eight natural disasters in Haiti since 1994, January’s earthquake is likely to see hundreds of thousands more Haitians leave their home country.1 In 2009, statistics from the World Bank revealed that approximately one million Haitians were living overseas, about half of them in the United States. Haitians are also migrating in large numbers to the Dominican Republic, Canada, Guadeloupe, France, French Guiana, Bahamas, Cuba, Martinique and the Netherlands Antilles.2 Although there are no official figures for the total number of people who have fled Haiti since the January earthquake, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) warns that it is likely that hundreds of thousands more Haitians will seek to emigrate in anticipation of future natural disasters, political strife and poverty .3

Justice

Haiti is plagued by very high levels of violent crime, though reported kidnapping cases decreased from 157 in the first half of 2008 to 48 in the first half of 2009. There were seven reported child abductions between March and September 2009. Sexual violence is a serious problem, targeting women and girls almost exclusively. An estimated 50 percent of rapes are committed against girls, and more than one third of women were sexually abused before the age of 15.4The United Nations reported 84 rapes of girls and boys between March and September 2009.5 Police ineffectiveness and abuse contribute to overall insecurity, and there are worrying reports of police brutality towards street children.6 Although more and more police units have received training on human rights and arrest procedures, the police continue to experience severe shortages of personnel, equipment, and training.7 In the area of juvenile delinquency, a juvenile justice system operates only in Cap Haitien and Port-au-Prince, and there are concerns that children in detention in other parts of the country are not separated from adults.8

Health

Malnutrition is one of the issues the UN Child Committee highlights in their concluding observations of 2004.9 The high infant, under-five and maternal mortality rates and low life expectancy in Haiti were already worrying before the eartquake, and are now even more so. According to UNICEF many of the children in Haiti who were chronically malnourished before the earthquake are now becoming acutely malnourished.10

Access to health services in the rural areas is crucial, as child survival and development continue to be threatened by early childhood and infectious diseases, diarrhoea and malnutrition. Lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation in Haiti are very worrying, especially in rural areas.11 In February 2010, a Flash appeal for Haiti was issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for USD 48 million, the target groups being 2.4 million women of child-bearing age, 240,000 pregnant women and 600,000 under-five children in need.12

There is a high HIV/AIDS prevalence among adults and children, affecting the number of children infected at birth and the number of children orphaned because of HIV/AIDS. There is also concern about the lack of knowledge among adolescents on how to prevent HIV/AIDS in spite of real efforts by the Government to raise public awareness on this issue. 13

Working children

Working children are at particular risk of physical abuse and sexual violence, especially young girls working as live-in maids in exchange for board and lodging. More than 100,000 girls aged between 6 and 17 worked as domestic servants in Haiti in 2007, according to UNICEF estimates.14 There are increasing reports that recruiters (known as “courtiers”) are searching for children, targeting large families living in poverty and enticing them to give up their children by making empty promises of a brighter future for them. These children are victims of internal trafficking and are vulnerable to all forms of exploitation, including sexual violence.15

Education

An additional problem to consider is that private institutions account for 85 per cent of Haiti’s schools. According to government estimates 10,000 private schools were located in affected areas and up to 4,600 schools have been destroyed by the quake or deemed structurally unsafe. In relation to continuing learning opportunities for girls, there are concerns that girls are being expelled from schools on account of being pregnant.16

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