12th January 2015 [4.53 PM Haiti Time] – we are five years after an earthquake struck Haiti. Today there is no doubt that the situation facing children is improving. There is clear evidence of meaningful progress; yet more remains to be done.
Today we see the impact of a strong partnership built between UNICEF, the Haitian government and its partners. Children’s smiles illustrate what has been accomplished together. As we speak three in four children at primary school age (6-11 years) are at school, as compared to just under 50 per cent in 2005-2006.
Under-five and Infant mortality rates have shown a steady decline during the last 15 years, a dynamic that has been slowed, but not disrupted by the earthquake. In 2005 one in ten children under five suffered from malnutrition, today it is one in 20. Countrywide two in three households have access to safe drinking water, a key aspect of disease prevention.
The national Child Protection system was strengthened, step-by-step, with the ratification by Haiti of the two additional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention on Adoption. The Haitian Code on child protection is ready for adoption by the Parliament. Seven out of ten children now have a birth certificate – an identity.
The country has turned the page from misery to hope, from assistance to action. At UNICEF we seek to build and boost the capacities of local players. Families, communities, teachers, doctors, nurses, journalists and artists are the roots of the progress that we feel today. We are moving in the right direction, yet we need to do more – because every child counts.
There is a widening gap between the rich and the poor, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. In today’s Haiti, one in ten children under five die, often from preventable causes. More than one in ten children at primary school age does not go to school. In rural areas only one in two households has access to clean water. Eight in ten children aged 2-14 years are subjected to physical or psychological abuse. One in two children aged 5-14 years has to work to make a living. Every day many children continue to wake up in one of the 105 displaced camps. The cholera epidemic, which has claimed over 8,000 death since 2010, still causes suffering and death.
But being born in Haiti does not imply that a girl’s or boy’s right to education, life, protection and participation has less weight than elsewhere. Rather the opposite is true – we, individually and collectively, must strive harder to transform the rights of those children who are most vulnerable. On 20th November 2014 the World celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, confirming a shared obligation. Today we have the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the children of Haiti, to ensure that all children’s rights are realized and that they achieve their true potential.
Today is an occasion to mourn what has been lost, rejoice in what has been accomplished, and accelerate our efforts to do what remains to be done. At UNICEF, we will pursue the road ahead with many partners and the Haitian government to ensure that every Haitian child will not only recover, but thrive.
Marc Vincent is the UNICEF Representative in Haiti.