Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. To make matters worse, natural disasters have devastated the lives of vulnerable families and children. In 2010, an earthquake destroyed vast parts of the country. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti on 4 October 2016, leaving thousands of families without food or water, causing severe damage to infrastructure and claiming the lives of hundreds of people.
A country marked by political instability and natural disasters
The Republic of Haiti has a total population of roughly 10 million, with roughly 900,000 living in the country's capital, Port-au-Prince. Its official languages are Creole and French.
Making a living as street vendors - photo: Sophie Preisch
The country has undergone decades of poverty, economic dependence and political instability.
It is now the poorest nation in the Americas. The country's economy is in ruins and depends heavily on international cooperation and aid.
Natural disasters have affected the lives of vulnerable families and children. In January 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti and caused the death of an estimated 220,000 people. Hundreds of thousands lost their homes, and many families have never fully recovered from the devastation. To make things worse, the earthquake was followed by a cholera epidemic, Hurricane Thomas, and badly organised presidential elections that caused further chaos on the streets of Port-au-Prince.
In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck the southwest coast of Haiti. It caused widespread damage and flooding, which affected around 2.1 million people. Directly after the hurricane, there was an urgent need for shelter, food, clean drinking water and medical care. The damaged infrastructure and the contamination of the water sources led to a rise in cases of cholera.
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere
Approximately 80 per cent of Haitians live on less than two US dollars a day, most of them under precarious conditions. They face a life without proper sanitation, electricity or running water.
Historically, Haiti has always been a country with a significantly uneven distribution of income: around 50 per cent of the country's wealth is owned by only one per cent of its population.
HIV/AIDS infections had already been one of the leading causes of death prior to the earthquake. Due to the disaster, they may now pose an even greater threat. At 2.1 per cent, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Haiti is one of the highest in the world.
Hundreds of thousands of children at risk
After Hurricane Matthew, SOS Children's Villages distributed food to local vulnerable families near Les Cayes (Photo: M. Eliscar Getro).
The critical economic and social situation, as well as natural disasters, have affected the lives of many children. As a result of the earthquake, thousands of Haitian children lost parental care.
After Hurricane Matthew in 2016, approximately 130,000 children were out of school and 10,000 children were in need of protections from exploitation and abuse.
Haiti is marked by high rates of infant, under-five and maternal mortality : nearly 57 children per 1,000 live births die before they reach the age of five.
Only one in five children starts secondary school. According to the United Nations, roughly 300,000 children in Haiti work in conditions similar to slavery.
The aforementioned HIV/AIDS problem has a great impact on Haiti's younger generation. Around 100,000 Haitian children aged between 0-17 have lost parental care as a result of AIDS. .
SOS Children's Villages in Haiti
SOS Children's Villages began working in Haiti in 1978.
Strengthen families: We work with local communities and organisations to ensure that families, who are at risk of breaking down, can stay together. The help we provide depends on the needs of each family but can include medical care and counselling, as well as nutritional and material support. We advise parents so that they can make a living to support their children.
Care in SOS families: If, in spite of all assistance, children cannot continue to live with their parents, they find a home in an SOS Children’s Village. Brothers and sisters grow up together in a family, and a cared for by an SOS mother.
Support for young people: The economic situation and high unemployment rate makes it difficult for young people to become independent. We support young adults with training and accommodation until they are able to live on their own.
Education: We run primary and secondary schools in Port-au-Prince (SOS Children’s Village Santo), Cap Haïtien and Les Cayes. Children from the local community attend alongside children in the care of SOS Children’s Villages. Over 2,200 children can benefit from our educational services throughout the country.
Vocational training: In Cap Haïtien, we also offer vocational training so that young people can make a living. We offer courses where young people learn the skills to become mechanics, electricians, plumbers, builders, beauticians or clothing makers. We also offer advice so that they can find a job or find their own businesses.
Emergency Programme in response to Hurricane Matthew: SOS Children’s Villages offered immediate emergency assistance to local families affected by the hurricane. We are currently planning to provide further assistance including food and non-food items, and protection to children in child-friendly spaces. We will also repair the SOS Children’s Villages community centres and the school in Les Cayes that have been damaged by the hurricane.