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Haiti Today...And Where Are the Children?

 article about Haiti Today...And Where Are the Children?
Since February and the downfall of Aristide $500 million worth of damage has occurred and over 100 Haitians have died (1). President Bush turned hundreds of Haitian refugees away, forcefully

returning them to Haiti (in glaring infringement of international humanitarian law).

 

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. About the size of Maryland, Haiti has a populace of 8 million. With a labor force of 4.1 million, only 110,000 are legally employed (2).

 

Whos at the greatest risk?

 

Now, the politics are broiling. The economy is crumbling. And the vulnerability of children has never been higher. The conflict has the greatest effect on the poorest the children without adult support.

 

These are the simple statistics of the Haitian children:

 

          About 70% of the Haitian people are children (3)

          23% of the children under five are suffering malnutrition (5)

          10% children will die before the age of 4 (6)

          70% of the population lives below poverty level (7)

          50% of the Haitian population is illiterate (8)

          Only 54% of children are in school(9)

          300,000 children in Haiti are abandoned or enslaved (10)

          10% of children is a restavk (house-slave) (11)

          200,000 children are orphaned by AIDS each year (12)

          1.2 million children are infected with HIV or dying of AIDS right now(13)

 

These figures are horrifying but very real. The poverty-stricken country has been desolate; high population and political instability leads to underinvestment and poor quality of the expenditures of time, money and consideration. The children get the brunt.

 

Slavery

 

Many parents cannot take of care their children or the children are living out on the street already street children. They are sent to be a restavk (house servant) in a more comfortable house. In principle, life should be much easier: a clean place to live, schooling, food and health care in exchange

for domestic services.

 

In actuality, most restavks are little more than slaves.

 

Restavks often work twelve to fourteen hour days, physically, emotionally and sexually abused, neglected, underfed and under-clothed. Many restavks sleep on the floor and are often cut off from their own families.

 

In 1984, the labor code passed saying that its unlawful to employ a child younger than twelve. Nobody lives up to this decree. Its customary to take the children very young. Usually, they are discarded before they reach fifteen so the owner doesnt have to start paying them.

 

UNICEF reported that the average restavek was between 11 and 14 years of age; however, more than 20 percent were between the ages 4 and 10, and 85 percent were girls. Rape by host family members was reported by 23 percent of these girls, 15 percent of whom became pregnant. Nearly 77 percent of all restaveks had never attended school. Among those who had, only 2 percent reached secondary school.(14)

 

Street Children

 

In many cases, life is so brutal for a restavk that some run away to join the other street children who, like feral dogs or cats, live in cemeteries, in slums, in boxes. They beg at airports, on corners, wiping cars or turning to prostitution for change to buy food. Some boys are recruited by armed gangs or targeted by pedophiles.  Beaten and raped children are an every day occurrence.

 

In one UNICEF survey, taken in March of 2004, it seems that the political crisis has escalated the childrens strife:

          In more than 15 percent of the surveyed zones, children were reportedly killed in the violence. 

          Children were wounded by gunshots or beaten by armed gangs in more than a third of the surveyed zones.

          The number of child rapes increased significantly in the urban areas where violence was the most extreme. In one instance, a human rights organization reported nine girls raped in the town of Cabaret over the course of only two days.

          Children were recruited by armed gangs in almost a third of the surveyed zones.

          Many children who participated in violent activities now fear retribution for their actions. (15)

 

Orphanages

 

Many orphanages are actually shelters are vulnerable children, who have one or even two parents, but these parents cannot take care of their children. Some find refuge from the restavk system. Some were street children. All orphanages are understaffed and underfunded, scrambling for donations of financial aid, food, diapers, clothing, basic household supplies, medical assistance. One very reputable such organization is Restoration Project International (http://www.restoreanation.org/en/index.php).

 

However, such associations such as RPI are few compared to the many children in need; stimulation and comfort and even enough food are luxuries that most orphanages have to do without.

 

Neither the number of institutions nor the number of children in institutions is officially known, but Chambre de lEnfance Ncessiteuse Ha_tienne  (CENH) indicated that it has received requests for assistance from nearly 200 orphanages around the country for more than 200,000 children. (16)

 

This is a high estimate of the orphanages and their children. The total number of vulnerable children is actually close to 1,210,000 (17): children of impoverished families, the street children, the orphans and of course, the children in HIV affected households.

 

HIV

 

In Haiti, 8,270,000 adults and children were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. 30,000 people died from AIDS since 2001. 200,000 children became orphans in the same stretch of time (18). 

 

Between 4,000 to 6,000 Haitian infants contracted HIV through mother-to-child transmission every year. 1,600 children died every day (19).

 

Although the rate of HIV infection among all adults has diminished a slight amount in the 1990s, the rate of infection among 15 to 24 year olds has gone up since 1996 (20).

 

Haiti is the most HIV prevalent country in the Western hemisphere. Although President Bush has committed to, provide $15 billion over five years to fund the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief(21) some to Haiti it seems like the plan isnt moving fast enough.

 

We are failing if we dont try

 

As the basic infrastructures break down from internal and external pressures, the children take the brunt of malnutrition, of poverty, of HIV. Yet most people are so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the world sorrow that they dont want to think about how to make life easier for others.

 

After all, everybody has a sob story of some kind: How could I help? I have billsor not enough time I have to deal with my own problems I have to deal with the policies in our country first

 

Just remember that a child is a child no matter where he/she is. Just remember that children didnt ask to be born into strife of any kind. We should, as adults, try to make every childs life a little less painful.

 

          Restoration Project International: Shelters and basic needs in Haiti

          Beyond Borders: Education in Haiti

          HaitiChildren.com/The Mercy and Sharing Foundation: Please view the slideshow

          Worldwide Refugee Information: U.S. helps refugees, internally displaced persons, and asylum seekers

 

 

 

____________

 

1)      http://www.refugeesinternational.org/cgi-bin/ri/country?cc=00112

2)      www.haiti-info.com/article.php3?id_article=398

3)      http://www.haitichildren.com/index.html

4)      Ibid

5)      http://www.haitichildren.com/index.html

6)      Ibid

7)      Ibid

8)      http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/haiti_statistics.html

9)      Ibid

10)  www.haiti-info.com/article.php3?id_article=398

11)  http://www.cyc-net.org/today/today031028.html

12)  http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/haiti_statistics.html

13)  Ibid

14)  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18335.htm

15)  http://www.unicef.org/media/media_20443.html

16)  http://www.synergyaids.com/documents/3549_fhi10.pdf, p21

17)  Ibid, p22

18)  http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/aids/Countries/lac/haitibrief.pdf

19)  http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2002/ga10021.doc.htm

20)  http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/aids/Countries/lac/haitibrief.pdf

21)  http://www.state.gov/s/gac/rl/or/c11652.htm



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