Haiti, although rich in natural beauty, the majority of the country’s population faces extreme poverty and starvation. After years of natural disasters and political unrest, generations of warm-hearted Haitians have been negatively affected and their livelihoods devastated. 78% of families live on less than $2 a day.
Haiti was once one of the most agriculturally productive countries in the world, but decades of deforestation and poverty have eroded and depleted the soil, severely impacting Haiti’s agricultural economy.
Haiti is one of the least developed and poorest countries in the world, 65% of the Haitian population lives below the poverty line. Economic hardship coupled with political instability has exacerbated the impact of the natural disaster on the situation of Haitian children, particularly in terms of health, education and welfare, etc.
Despite some developments and improvements in healthcare, Haiti still faces significant challenges. In fact, only 40% of children have access to health care. In most cases, the population has insufficient care: health facilities are often many kilometres away from where people live. In addition, health services are not always freely available, which discourages many Haitians from using them. Haiti also suffers from a shortage of paediatricians, many trained people have left the country due to political instability and lack of security.
Child mortality is very high in Haiti, mainly due to diseases such as diarrhoea, respiratory diseases, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV (at least 19,000 Haitian children are currently infected with the AIDS virus).
Malnutrition affects the majority of Haitian children, affecting their health in an extremely negative way and creating significant problems for their physical and mental development. Currently, the lack of zinc, iodine and vitamin A in children’s diets is causing serious growth problems. In the long term, malnutrition causes significant damage to overall social development and economic growth.
Today, Haiti – in cooperation with local NGOs and international guidelines on health development – strives to recognize and implement Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Although education is officially “free” for children, only half of all children in Haiti attend primary school. This is because 92% of schools are private and most families cannot afford the school fees. In addition, the cost of school uniforms, books and other supplies is prohibitive for many families. The quality of education in Haiti is extremely poor with 80% of teachers not having a teaching degree. Much still needs to be done to ensure that Haitian children have access to a good education.
The number of children working as domestic workers is extremely high: 80% of these children are girls.
It is a common practice for disadvantaged parents, especially in rural areas, to send their children to urban areas to serve wealthier families. Parents often live in the delusional belief that their children will be compensated for doing menial household chores. However, the children are often not paid for their work; they are absent from school and regularly subjected to physical and/or sexual abuse.
Child slavery is near endemic in Haiti. Child trafficking networks have penetrated deeply into Haiti’s social fabric and the 2010 earthquakes have accelerated their activities.
In most cases, children are kidnapped by child traffickers and/or smuggled into the Dominican Republic through pimping. Children’s parents often have the wrong impression that migration will help their children. They believe that their children will be offered better working and living conditions in the Dominican Republic. However, the reality is completely different: Haitian children are exploited in the worst and most inhumane way, especially girls, who are mainly used in domestic service and child prostitution.
A number of child trafficking links, including Ouanaminthe’s, are known to the authorities. Although the government and some organizations are actively involved in combating child trafficking, it has proven difficult to uncover all child trafficking hubs.
Sexual violence is a serious problem in Haiti. Statistics show that 50% of all Haitian girls are raped, with a third of girls being sexually abused before they are 15 years old. The insecurity that the country and its citizens are struggling with is mainly linked to a lack of sufficient police forces, training and equipment.
Of great concern is Haiti’s widespread lack of fresh water and access to sanitation. Many children, especially those living in rural areas, do not have access to drinking water. Haitian children often have to spend a lot of time fetching and carrying water, resulting in their education being neglected. Often the water that can be found is undrinkable; to be safe, it is necessary to boil the water using firewood or charcoal. However, these are rare resources that are difficult to produce. Because of this, many young Haitians drink polluted water and risk contracting diseases such as diarrhoea; this very drinking of polluted water is the main reason for the deaths of children under the age of five.
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