Haiti: thousands of children suffering from acute malnutrition

Port-au-Prince, August 5, 2022 – That increase in gang violence has deprived some urban areas of Haiti of access to health services. In Cité Soleil – a town in Port-au-Prince ravaged by violence – 1 child out of 20 are at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition, UNICEF warned today.

According to the latest available data from UNICEF, approx 20 % of children under five in Cité Soleil suffer from severe or moderate acute malnutrition, i.e. % more than the emergency limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO). If the violence continues, these numbers could continue to rise.

“We cannot sit idly by and watch children suffer from malnutrition and its complications,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF representative in Haiti. “Thousands of children are at risk of death and most local clinics are closed, preventing them from receiving adequate health care and nutrition. The violence must end in Cité Soleil so that malnourished children can get the medical care they need to to survive and grow.”

Violence that contributes to already existing crisis factors

An assessment carried out in April 2022 alerted UNICEF to the worrying nutritional status of children in the city. Since, an increase in violence in early July further limits children’s and families’ access to basic health services. Food insecurity caused by inflation, rising food prices and pre-existing socio-economic difficulties are also behind this recent rise in malnutrition in Cite Soleil.

UNICEF and the Ministry of Health (MSPP) have already provided ready-to-use therapeutic food, therapeutic milk and essential medicines and are supporting community health workers to intensify the detection and referral of identified cases of malnutrition. So far 9 506 children were screened for acute malnutrition and 1 918 malnourished children received life-saving treatment.

During the siege, families were deprived of access to essential services

Since July 8, a new outbreak of violence has erupted as rival gangs wage merciless battles in Cité Soleil, a commune of 25,000 residents. According to the UN, between 8 and the 17th July 2022, more than 471 people were killed, injured or missing. Around 3 000 people also fled their homesincluding hundreds of unaccompanied children, while at least 140 homes were destroyed or burned.

This new wave of violence has forced hundreds of people to leave their homes. However, it was only part of the population that fled the municipality. The majority of Cité Soleil’s population is still trapped there, living under siege as the conflict rages in the streets. Children and families also face a lack of access to food and water. Access to basic services such as health centers has already been significantly reduced in Cité Soleil, with only 4% of the population using public health centers and 64% using the services of NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders.

To prevent any deterioration in the nutritional status of mothers and children, UNICEF supports the provision of the following services at health facility and community level: treatment of acute malnutrition, supplementation and promotion of micronutrients, protection and support of infant and young child feeding practices, deworming and vaccination, zinc supplementation in case of episodes with diarrhea.

Thousands of families and children who remained in Cité Soleil need urgent nutritional and medical assistance as parents and caregivers can no longer travel to work or to other neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince to get enough to feed their children . Families who have fled their homes have left all their belongings behind and children are denied access to all their basic rights such as health, nutrition and education “, said Bruno Maes.

Against hunger, it is urgent to end the violence

Since July 20, UNICEF has provided nearly one million liters of drinking water to meet the urgent daily needs of 15,000 people, distributed 500 hygiene kits to serve 2,500 people and deployed two mobile clinics in the Bois Neuf and Belekou districts of Cité Soleil to provide medical and nutritional treatment for more than 500 people, the majority of whom are women and children.

Outside Cité Soleil, UNICEF provided 100 mattresses, clothing and almost 700 liters of drinking water to displaced families, helped 800 children with psychosocial support activities and provided medical care to 180 children through a mobile health and nutrition clinic.

UNICEF calls on all stakeholders to renounce the use of violence and guarantee women’s and children’s access to basic services. Seven months into the year have already passed and UNICEF still needs $64.6 million to provide humanitarian assistance to more than half a million children in Haiti.

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