PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 2 As aid workers continue to provide relief to Haiti's quake survivors, Haitian and global leaders as well as international development groups look toward longer-term recovery for the country. However, humanitarian group World Vision urges those designing any "Marshall Plan" for Haiti to prioritize children's best interests as a central focus in rebuilding the country.
"Children make up about half of Haiti's population," said Sian Platt, child protection specialist with World Vision's Global Rapid Response Team. "They aren't just the future of Haiti, they are Haiti now - and any plan for a recovery must put them at the heart of the recovery."
"For the country's rebuilding efforts and economy to flourish in years to come, leaders and donors must work now to ensure the health, education, rights and protection of Haiti's 'younger half'," said Platt. "A failure to prioritize children in comprehensive plans now means a missed opportunity to improve Haiti's future development."
World Vision urges the Government of Haiti and its partners to address the basic needs of children in the following key areas, for a healthier and more prosperous future for Port-au-Prince and the country as a whole:
STATUS: Only about two-thirds of Haitian children attend primary school. Fewer than 30 percent reach the 6th grade. Only half of Haitians over the age of 15 can read.
STATUS: Haiti has the Western Hemisphere's highest death rates among infants, children under five, and new mothers. Malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections and HIV - all preventable and treatable - are the leading causes of these deaths. More than 22 percent of Haitian children suffer from malnutrition, which can cause permanent physical and brain damage, especially in children under 2 - debilitating the next generation.
Protection from abuse and exploitation
STATUS: Even before January 2010, more than half a million Haitian children were either orphaned, living on the streets or institutions, or working as domestic servants known as 'restaveks' away from their families. Many received no education and some faced abuse. After the quake, more children were separated from their families and many still don't know if their parents survived. For children without adult caregivers, it is too easy to be left behind - unable to compete for basic necessities and vulnerable to abuse, neglect and trafficking - especially following disasters.
Livelihoods for parents
STATUS: Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line. The average Haitian makes $1,300 a year, and 55 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Desperate need and unemployment has led to malnutrition and coping strategies that have severely depleted the environment and natural resources.
Disaster Risk Reduction
STATUS: Much of the damage done by the January 12 earthquake was the result of poor infrastructure and lack of preparation. Haiti is also prone to deadly hurricanes and tropical storms on a regular basis. Better systems to prepare for natural disasters must be a priority at the national and local levels to protect children and their families from needless death, injury and loss of assets.
STATUS: With government systems susceptible to corruption, Haiti's leaders can take this opportunity to implement transparency, and its citizens can use this unifying event to mobilize and hold their leaders accountable. Good governance happens when there is strong civil society engagement to hold government accountable.
Donations to World Vision's Haiti Quake Response can be made by calling 888-56-CHILD, at www.worldvision.org, or by texting the word "GIVE" to 20222.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tacking the causes of poverty and injustice. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press
-- About half of Haiti's population is under 18: leaders must count them in now for better future -- Education, health, protection of children will be crucial to Haiti's rebuilding plans
SOURCE World Vision U.S.