UN News Centre
Although “commendable progress” has been made in Haiti since January’s earthquake, the situation remains dire, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said today, citing huge challenges, from providing shelter in the rainy season to stopping rape in the camps.
“What is clear is that there is need to keep remembering Haiti, there is a need to continue maintaining our attention on Haiti and to keep it in focus,” she told a news conference in New York, summing up her “eye-opening” weekend visit there, three months to the day after the quake killed more than 200,000 people, injured many others and rendered 1.3 million more homeless in the largely destroyed capital, Port-au-Prince, and nearby towns.Some 38,000 students and 1,300 teachers and other education personnel were among the more than 200,000 people, including 101 UN personnel, killed by the 12 January quake
“Definitely support for the international community and the United Nations will go a long way to assist them in rebuilding.”
Ms. Migiro highlighted the incremental progress. “I met the people yearning to rebuild their lives, a proud nation that is on its way to renewal and betterment,” she said, citing children returning to school, millions of people being provided with shelter, food and potable water, and the Government restoring its institutions and authority.
But she stressed that women and children need stronger protection from sexual and other violence in the camps and that millions still lack proper shelter with the rainy season already here. “So you will see much remains to be done,” she said. “We need to have solutions which will provide better education to the children, adequate sanitation, shelter, medical facilities.”
Gender-based violence, which existed before the quake, worsened afterwards. “The prison also fell and the inmates ran out there and some of them have been convicted for rape or sexual abuse, so they’re out there on the loose, and these also are causing a threat,” she noted, also citing close proximity in the camps, with tents back to back, and lack of privacy as among the causes of the violence.
But she also voiced optimism for the future. “In the end, despite the huge challenges, I left Port-au-Prince with the confidence that Haiti will recover,” she said. “People there are determined to build their country with their own hands, the Government continues to show leadership and a sense of progress.”
Also today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Edmond Mulet hailed the reopening of a large number of schools as “a significant stage” in the return to normality.
“I feel particularly bound to acknowledge the enormous efforts of parents to support their children during these difficult moments, as well as the dedication of the teachers who have helped the children overcome their psychological trauma,” he said in a statement, also praising the Government’s “remarkable effort.” Some 38,000 students and 1,300 teachers and education personnel were killed in the quake, which also destroyed more than 4,000 schools.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Haitian officials have already developed a special syllabus for 600,000 children that takes into account the trauma they suffered and the class time lost.
Mr. Mulet assured the Government and people of the continued support of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) “in these moments of great challenge to rebuild what has been destroyed.”
MINUSTAH has been on the ground since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. Currently there are more than 9,000 military and police personnel deployed and nearly 2,000 civilian staff.