Tragically, Haiti, one of the poorest countries on earth, has been hit again by a natural disaster. Six years after a powerful earthquake devastated the country, killing more than 200,000 people and injuring hundreds of thousands, a strong hurricane violently struck the small island earlier this month.
The storm caused yet another enormous humanitarian crisis affecting 2.1 million people which is 20% of the population. So far more than 500 deaths have been confirmed with hundreds more injured or still missing.
According to the government at least 1.4 million Haitians need urgent lifesaving assistance and 750,000 people need urgent humanitarian aid for at least the next three months.
School means normalcy for children
Children are often the most vulnerable victims – losing parents and loved ones and grappling with a situation where the world as they know it breaks apart and nothing is as it used to be.
That’s why it is crucial in a crisis like this one to give children a sense of normalcy as fast as possible. Going to school, seeing their teachers and friends, getting a school meal is a daily routine for children.
From what we know so far, the education of 116,000 Haitian children between 6 to 14 years old has been disrupted by the hurricane, and with assessments still ongoing this number may rise up to 300,000.
Schools are destroyed, closed or not functioning because buildings are unsafe or destroyed or teachers are not available, having to deal with their own personal situations.
Furthermore, in many areas there’s not enough drinking water and food, and cases of cholera are on the rise across the country, spreading fears of a worsening epidemic as entire cities and villages were flooded with several feet of water.
GPE’s program is in the areas that are hardest hit
The hardest hit area in Haiti’s southern region (including the departments of Grand-Anse, South, Nippes and South-East) is where GPE has been actively supporting a program to strengthen the region’s education system, training teachers, providing tuition waivers for poor families and improving children’s learning.
Some parts of the area still remain hard to reach due to severe damage or destruction of bridges and roads.
Haiti’s Ministry of Education is leading the damage assessment efforts and an official report is expected within the next few weeks. It is feared that as many as 2,250 primary and secondary schools could be damaged or destroyed.
Damage is to be expected on school buildings, sanitary blocks, water points, and, of course, loss of school furniture, supplies and books. Many families have also lost their housing, which, combined with a lack of food and agricultural income losses, is making them even more vulnerable.
Although the international community is responding, immediate needs are becoming increasingly urgent. GPE, along with other education partners, such as the Caribbean Development Bank, the International Development Association and the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, has offered to reallocate funding from our current program towards reconstruction efforts. The government specifically asked GPE to reallocate US$1 million from its US$24.1 million grant for school feedings – a request we’ll be happy to support.
This flexibility by education partners, combined with the government’s coordination capacity to adjust support to the most pressing needs, will be critical to reopen schools as soon as possible getting Haiti’s children back to a somewhat normal routine amidst the disaster.
We hope that other partners will come to Haiti’s help, and we’ll continue to closely monitor the government’s requests to provide support according to the needs of Haitian people and children.