One year after Hurricane Matthew, Haiti’s children still vulnerable to natural disasters

A devastated locality in Grand’Anse


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 4 October 2017 – One year after Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 hurricane, devastated the Southwest of Haiti, causing loss of life and considerable damage, children and adolescents in the Caribbean country are still incredibly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters and extreme weather events, UNICEF warned today.

“Hundreds of thousands of children had their lives turned upside down by Hurricane Matthew,” said UNICEF Representative Marc Vincent. “The courage and determination of families to recover and begin to rebuild their lives is admirable and UNICEF is proud to be one of the organizations continuing to support them.”

“After Matthew passed, I thought it would be virtually impossible to continue living. All the trees were uprooted … But people are beginning gradually to recover,” according to Bernard, 14, originally from Roche-à-Bateau, a southern commune badly affected by Matthew.

A water treatment and filtration plant in Grand’Anse, supported by UNICEF

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, UNICEF mobilized its staff on the ground to respond to the most urgent needs, sending emergency aid for affected children and families, including clean water and sanitation.

UNICEF, working with the Haitian Government and partners, has been able to carry out the following actions during the past 12 months:

  • More than 550,000 people have benefited from access to drinking water.
  • 120 schools damaged by the hurricane were rehabilitated, facilitating the return to school for more than 30,000 schoolchildren. 139 schools received more than 10,000 school furniture items and 26,000 children received psychosocial support.
  • More than 28,000 children benefited from psychosocial care, assistance and nutrition, health and hygiene education. More than 24,000 people received information on violence, child abuse and gender-based violence (GBV).
  • More than 160,000 children have been screened for malnutrition in the departments of the South and Grand’Anse in an ongoing screening program. The results show the need for continuing care with7,443 cases of acute malnutrition reported including 2,343 cases of severe acute malnutrition and 5,100 cases of moderate acute malnutrition.


In addition, UNICEF had organized a series of consultations with adolescents in Grand’Anse and the South to enable them to express their concerns and ideas about risk and disaster management, with the results shared with local authorities. .


Notes for editors:

UReport: In order, not only to inform but also to listen to young people, UNICEF Haiti has just integrated the global initiative UReport. The focus will be on child protection in Haiti. To access:

Interactive Map: The experience of staff and communities in affected areas is also visible on an interactive map that gives details of actions and needs on the ground. To access it visit:

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit

For photo and video content please visit here.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

For more information, please contact:

Cornelia Walther, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Haiti,

Joe English, UNICEF New York, +1 917 893 0692



UNICEF distributes equipment as part of “punch operation”

The partners of ”punch operation”

The punch operation is a new strategy against cholera underway in the departments of the West, Centre. Its main objective is to “achieve a national incidence of “<0.1% by the end of 2017” and specifically to “reduce transmission as low as possible before the high transmission season (September to December) in terms to be closer the objective of elimination “.

The Ministry of Public Health (MSPP), with technical and financial support from UNICEF, emphasizes community mobilization and engagement of local authorities. To do this, two strategies have been put in place:

  • One with the town halls during which nine town halls of the department of the West deployed 25 sensitizing agents in about 20 markets of the city. In addition, outreach activities are carried out by city council officials in community organization and funeral businesses in order to reduce the risk of contamination following poorly managed deaths.
  • The other with local organizations that make itinerant communication in bus stations with public transport vehicles and in churches with high concentration of people.

To accompany all these communication activities, UNICEF distributed awareness-raising materials to partners in order to intensify the fight against cholera.

It was in the UNICEF warehouse, side that the distribution took place in the presence of representatives of the Haitian state and of organizations involved in the fight against cholera. The material contains flyers, stickers, educational cholera boards, t-shirts, caps, bags, posters and megaphones.

Partners strengthen the fight

In a short speech, Dr. Nathan Zéphirin, Technical Advisor in the Health Decentralization Support Unit (UADS), said that the MSPP cannot win this fight without the collaboration of the partners.

Loading of a part of the material

“We are counting on you, especially as part of this activity, to raise awareness, so that we can definitively eliminate cholera in Haiti, by 2022 as defined in the cholera elimination plan. “He insisted. He went on to say special thanks to UNICEF, which “has been a constant partner in the fight against cholera”.

For his part, Paul Christian Namphy, National Cholera Response Coordinator for the National Directorate for Drinking Water and Sanitation (DINEPA), insisted on the concrete actions to be taken on the ground in order to put an end to the disease. In particular, he emphasized the support of the population to change their behavior.

Further, he insisted on the gestures that can help to eliminate cholera: washing hands in key moments, drinking treated water, going to the toilet. “DINEPA, the MSPP and the governmental wardship bodies, we will together ensure with you of this victory,” he addressed the organizations.

A new strategy

The communication component of this ‘’punch operation” against cholera pursues two key objectives: engaging local authorities; strengthen community participation in awareness-raising activities for behavioral change.

Beyond the community mobilization phase, the operation also includes an action phase. 15 additional rapid response teams are deployed in the western department and are able to respond to more than 85% of suspected cases and to strengthen prevention, mobilization and awareness.


Back to school. Back to normality. Nearly

Fort-Liberté. September 11th – It is Monday. One week after the school year started officially in Haiti, schools are once again making a timid effort to reopen their doors. Everyone is eager to turn the page on Irma, yet reality hasn’t quite caught up yet. Even though 12 out of the 13 shelters were evacuated yesterday to ensure that schools can reopen today, some of them are not ready to host their students.

The student of the Lycée Duty Boukman resume their classes. This school served as a temporary shelter for a short time.

Together with UNICEF colleague Brice, school inspectors and NGO partners, I am part of a joint assessment mission whose purpose is to find out which schools have been flooded or damaged during Irma. The ambition is to focus the limited resources where they are most needed, to make sure that all students can get back to the classroom quickly.

But the challenge goes beyond school infrastructure. “Many of our teachers and the families of our students have seen their homes flooded during Irma. They are not in school because they are busy recuperating what can be saved.” Explains us Maitre Jean Baptiste, the director of Mebane school. Indeed out of the six schools that my team visits three didn’t have students today, and the others had only a small part of their usual effectif.

All the students have yet to resume classes

Access is another issue. Already challenging to reach in the dry season some schools are circled in by mud and small streams as a consequence of heavy rainfall. In the attempt to reach the school of Beudoux, on top of our list because of reported damages, our car gets stuck twice. And only the expertise of Gabrielle our experienced driver saved us from pushing to the shore.

Irma has lifted the fine veil on existing vulnerabilities. “I came to the shelter because the place where I live was flooded. My parents died during the 2010 earthquake, so now I stay with the woman I work for. To make a living I am transporting things from Haiti to the Dominican Republic and back. It’s a while that I haven’t gone to school. It’s too expensive.” Explains Renel, 14 years old. He came to the shelter and once it closed he returned to his life at the margin of society…

The schools, roads, homes that are most affected by Irma are those that were struggling already before. In St Martin, the Storm was strong and crushed solid infrastructure; in Haiti it was soft und weakened further what was fragile before. Mother Nature is giving us another nudge, another lesson on the vital importance of structural investment to unveil Haiti’s sleeping potential. Irma today is not about emergency relief, but about a thorough commitment to local communities. UNICEF is supporting them on their way back, back to school, back to normality, forward to the Future.


Stay posted

Haiti – Preparation and lessons learnt made the difference

Fort Liberté, September 10th – 48 hours have passed since Irma’s soft passage. In the words of the departmental head of the Education Ministry in the North East, Irma was a ‘failed hurricane’. And yet, there is still an aftermath. With my colleagues Abner and Brice, who had been stationed in the North from the middle of last week to prepare for Irma, I had the opportunity today to visit shelters in Ouanaminthe and Fort Liberté, the most affected areas.

A school used as temporary shelter.

In total, 13 shelters had been opened in schools, churches and teacher centers, hosting over 5,000 people who had sought refuge at the onset of the hurricane. Some will find their homes flooded when they return home.

“I have eight children and my house is under water. We lost everything so I really hope that the authorities will help us,” said Susanne, 40 years old.

Yet, most were lucky. Predictions of Irma’s destruction were more daunting than her actual touch. Based on the current situation, the schools that had served as shelter will be closed today. Once everyone has left, the classrooms will be cleaned.

To facilitate their return, the families who’d settled in these shelters will receive food and hygiene kits before they are sent home. In the most affected communities, UNICEF and partners have established water bladders to ensure drinking water is accessible despite flooded wells.

The shared objective of Government, civil society and UN partners is to make sure that people can return to their normal lives quickly. To avoid any further delay, schools are supposed to reopen tomorrow, wherever possible.

People in a temporary shelter wait for a distribution.

‘Our benches, chairs and books are under water. Everything is flooded. Reopening the school will take us at least three weeks,” according to Frère René who works with Caritas in Malfety. His school is one of many that were impacted by Irma, and a joint assessment by the government, UNICEF and other education partners is scheduled for tomorrow to ensure assistance is provided where needed.

Despite the weekend, everyone is mobilized, pulling the rope-strings in the same direction. Clearly, lessons have been learned and internalized since Matthew hit Haiti one year ago.

Even though the impact of Hurricane Irma was considered minor, its consequences illustrate once again the prevailing vulnerability of Haiti. Small kicks can make the whole pile collapse.




After the storm is before the storm.

Port-au-Prince, 8 September 2017 – ‘Behind mountains are mountains’ says a popular Haitian proverb (In Creole ‘Deye mon gen mon.’), which applies perfectly to the present setting.

On National Road 6, not far from the town of Ouanaminthe, several small villages suffered significant damage. The houses of the inhabitants have been flooded and many have seen all their property lost or damaged.

Hurricane Irma has spared us most of her rage. The night was wet, yet less destructive than expected. As I write these lines UNICEF teams are on the ground in the affected areas to assess the actual damage and deriving needs in close collaboration with the Government. Already it appears that flooding is the main problem.

As hundreds of children, women and men lost their homes and found refuge in temporary shelter colleagues on the ground do their maximum to make sure they get assistance fast. The prepositioned supplies turn out to be major asset to get things moving. Yet the alert is not lifted. In the wake of Mrs Irma comes her successor…

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) there are currently three hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, Irma, José and Katia. The last time this happened was in 2010. As Irma carries on to bring wind, storm and rainfall to the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas heavy rainfall remains possible over Haiti, the Dominican Republic and northern Cuba. Beginning late tomorrow severe hurricane conditions are expected over parts of Florida.

a UNICEF team in the direction of Ouananminthe and Fort-Liberté.

As assessments proceed in the North East and the North West of Haiti the main priorities for UNICEF are water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, including containing the risk of diarrheal diseases – such as cholera; protection for the most vulnerable children and adolescents, and psychosocial support to those who are most affected.

At the same time efforts are deployed to re-establish the education system, to avoid that the use of schools as temporary shelters delays even further the beginning of the academic school year, which had just started. Finally, to ensure that violence and abuse are prevented and addressed UNICEF supports the Government in the monitoring and reporting of issues in high risk locations, in particular in shelters.

The coming days will show what the actual impact of Irma is. This Weekend I will travel to the North to meet families and hear they stories. Stay posted!

Thank you


Update: While we publish this article HURRICANE Irma has weakened to a tropical storm


Using precious hours before Irma hits

Port-au-Prince, 7 September 2017 – It is calm outside. As clouds are gathering an eerie tranquility reigns in the streets. There is little traffic since schools have been closed as a precautionary measure; businesses were open this morning but by midafternoon everything has closed down. Everyone is waiting..

A gray sky

In this atmosphere of sweltering expectation the UNICEF team is working at full speed. Both in the central office in Port-au-Prince where we have only a minimum of staff working today to reduce the risk of exposure, and in the North where program specialists support the Government in getting things ready on the ground. Everyone pushes forward to get a maximum done as long as this is possible; setting the stage so that help for children can start as soon as Irma has passed.

Irma is moving towards the West at a speed of 24 km/h, with torrential rain, storm surges and life-threatening winds along her path. Tales of destruction have started to trickle in from islands on her way. In Barbuda ninety per cent of all buildings are reported as destroyed or severely damaged; telecommunication systems in the island are down and power supply remains off. Covering a space the size of France Irma keeps barreling in our direction, coming closer one turn at a time.

4 Million people live in the four departments that are most at risk of the current trajectory, approximately 40 percent are children under 18 years old. Being already vulnerable in ‘normal’ settings, children and women are always the most vulnerable in disaster. They are our priority when Irma hits Haiti, and the efficiency of our response will be key to reaching a maximum of children, fast. Everything is done under the leadership of the Government, and UNICEF is actively supports the coordination mechanisms that have been activated at central and departmental levels. Our shared ambition is to ensure concertation and collaboration of actors, hereby maximizing the impact of everyone’s resources.

Stocks with critical supplies are prepositioned with civil society partners in the North and North East, North West and Artibonite, and additional stocks are ready for dispatch from the South and West which are likely to be less affected. Safe water is a priority in the first hours after a disaster strikes. Based on past experience stocks include aquatabs and chlore for water purification, and hygiene kits to ensure a minimum standard of drinking water and sanitation – crucial aspects to prevent the outbreak of diseases. Furthermore plastic-sheeting and blankets are included as families who lost their homes and belongings will be exposed to the elements; there is also ready to use therapeutic foods (RUTF) for the treatment of malnourished children; and some school-in-a box kits to facilitate the reopening of schools as soon as possible. Further priorities will include protection for the most vulnerable children and adolescents, and psychosocial support to the most affected children and adolescents.


As seen during Matthew last year this return to school can prove to be a major challenge as families who lost their houses seek shelter in schools (which are often the only solid buildings in their area) and have nowhere else to go once the storm has passed. Identifying alternative accommodation as fast as possible is one of the tasks that UNICEF, the Government and various Education partners have started to work on in preparation of Irma.

As I write these lines I am about to leave the office, the rain is gushing down like a shower. Stay dry, and posted please

Irma Haiti, Blog #2



Preparing for Irma. UNICEF Haiti’s team deployed at the frontline


Port Salut, 6 months after the passage of hurricane Matthew

Port-au-Prince, September 6th, 2017 – I am waking up to battering rain. Irma is coming closer. Packing winds of 185mph, Irma is the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record.

Exceeding the available measuring scale level 1-5, Irma is far stronger than Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 hurricane that devastated Haiti’s South and Grand’Anse departments just one year ago. Irma is barreling across the Caribbean with many island groups and millions of children, women and men in its path. Those who are at the most immediate risk are families in the less well-off Caribbean islands who live in fragile housing. They face potentially catastrophic consequences. Millions have been urged to prepare, and some are taking cover in emergency shelters. Listening to the rain drumming over my head I think of those families who live in makeshift homes that barely stand straight in normal weather. What will their lives look like in 48 hours.

A UNICEF staff during a teacher training in the North, 3 weeks ago

Yesterday UNICEF has started to deploy teams to the locations that will most likely be hit hardest once Irma reaches the Haitian shore. Their expertise covers children’s crucial needs – Water and Sanitation, Health, and Nutrition, Education and Child Protection. Starting beginning of the week Emergency stocks have been prepositioned via the Government and civil society partners in the areas at risk. These include those supplies that will be most needed during the immediate response when access to clean water, shelter and basic social services becomes scarce.

It is hard to imagine that only three weeks ago I visited Cap Haitian. Three weeks that feel like a closed chapter of the past. Wondering whether the schools and smiles that I got a chance to see will still be there at my next visit.

As a reminder – in October 2017 Matthew affected 2.1 million people, of which 1.3million were children. UNICEF’s emergency response, done in close partnership with the national Government kicked-in immediately, with key interventions centering around water, hygiene, education, protection, nutrition and health, while at the same time responding to the spread of cholera. This work continues as the affected populations’ transition to normality. Among other results efforts over the past 11 months allowed rehabilitation of 75 schools with 25,000 students returning to the classroom, access to drinking water for 400,000 people, and access to medical attention for 80,000 people in affected areas without operational health centers.

Our office has entered the emergency modus. All efforts are concentrated to make sure that children will get the life-saving help they’ll need once Irma is gone. Stay posted.



UNICEF calls for the protection of all children with the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irma

A part of Haiti shores

  • Hundreds of young people in areas under high alert are receiving information via UNICEF’s U-Report tool to help them prepare for the emergency (@UReportGlobal)


PANAMA CITY (5 September 2017). In the last few hours, storm Irma has turned into a powerful Category 5 hurricane, the highest possible level in the Saffir-Simpson scale. The hurricane looks likely to be accompanied by strong winds and storms through its likely path through the Caribbean. If it continues in its current track it will bring devastating damage in the next few hours in the territories of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Maarten, St Kitts and Nevis and the Virgin Islands. It is then expected to hit the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba, directly affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, adolescents and their families.


Although it is still early to know the full impact that Irma will have in the region, the main concerns of UNICEF centre around the supply of drinking water and food, and the health and protection of children and adolescents.

Considering the possible magnitude that Irma represents, it is both hugely urgent and necessary to be prepared, informed and vigilant so that we try to avoid the impact on the most vulnerable, that is to say children,” confirms Marita Perceval, Regional Director of UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean.

UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean, in coordination with the country offices and headquarters in New York, has activated emergency situation protocols, and is in constant contact with governments, the other United Nations agencies, and partner organisations to offer the required assistance and support.

UNICEF has also pre-positioned supplies of drinking water, unperishable food and medicines, and emergency kits to be distributed in coordination with national authorities in the most affected communities.

To ensure affected populations have direct access to information such as how to cope with the hurricane, UNICEF has activated its U-Report platform, which allows UNICEF to send messages to youth and adolescents that they receive via their Facebook Messenger and social media accounts. The number of youth that have asked to receive these messages has been increasing rapidly over the past 24 hours, particularly in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

UNICEF’s response to Hurricane Matthew

Irma has turned into the most dangerous natural phenomenon of 2017, and is now stronger than Hurricane Matthew of last October, a category 4 hurricane, that battered South Haiti and Southeast Cuba.

In Haiti alone, Matthew affected 3.2million people, of which 1.3million were children. UNICEF actively participated in the emergency response working alongside the national Government in key interventions centering around water, hygiene, education, protection, nutrition and health, at the same time responding to the spread of cholera.

UNICEF continues to work with its partners in the area, and as a result of these actions, has, amongst other results, rehabilitated 75 schools that have allowed 25,000 students to return to the classroom, 400,000 to have access to drinking water, and 80,000 people to receive attention at the medical points installed in the most affected areas.

In Cuba, around 150,000 people lost their belongings in the province of Guantanamo, and 90 per cent of houses in Baraoca were affected. Hurricane Matthew also affected more than 290 education centres in the province of Guantanamo, and caused damage to 96 per cent of schools and day care centres in Baracoa district.

Approximately 6,500 girls and 8,000 boys in the municipalities of Maisi, Imias, San Antonio del Sur, Baracoa and Yateras benefited from education and recreation kits donated by UNICEF. Additionally, 153 education centres and 83 communities received early years development kits, that offered early education to more than 12,700 children on the island.

 Contact press 

Cornelia Walther, communication Chief,

UNICEF: Fighting malnutrition among children

Malnutrition is a direct or indirect primary cause playing a role in the mortality of children under 5 years of age, especially in hard-to-reach communities. Malnutrition is seen as a public health emergency that is sometimes invisible because in most cases, mothers cannot detect the signs that save because of lack of information. So it is important to go to these women so that they can save the lives of their children. With funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and a joint UNICEF and International Medical Corps (IMC) partnership, mobile teams travel to remote areas of Fonds-Verettes to provide Nutrition.

Port-au-Prince, 11-8-2017- “I have to give breast to my children during the first six months,” repeat with a loud voice the sixty women gathered in the church of Haut Plumette, a small locality in the Forest of the Pines.

Screening of malnutrtion

Today is the day of follow-up and detection of cases of child malnutrition in this community. Despite the contiguous space of the church, mothers and children find a place. It is not really hot at this altitude of nearly 1500 meters.

The strong voice of the IMC nurse recite over and over the messages about the importance of breastfeeding as well as infant and young child feeding. The focus is on children under 5 years of age.

Monixia Floriane, a 24-year-old mother of five, says she is in a difficult situation given the lack of resources available to the inhabitants of the area. “I brought my child into the program and I am satisfied because I have seen great improvements in his health. Her feet were swollen but now everything is fine, “she says.

A response to the nutritional emergency

This nutrition program has three objectives: to support health structures in the management of severe and moderate acute malnutrition; Strengthen the capacity of health structures and the MSPP in care; Preventing malnutrition.

Within the framework of this program; four health facilities, in remote areas of Fonds- Verrettes receive support for nutrition. However, the mobile strategy is prioritized. A mobile team travels each week to do active screening and the malnourished detected child is referred to this fixed point for care.

“We found that it is very difficult for mothers to walk ten kilometers. So we came to them to them by bringing the service. All cases of malnourished children with medical complications are referred to a Nutrition Stabilization Unit (USN) located at Fonds-Verrettes. We also provide transport, “explains Franck Mpoyi Ntalaja, head of nutrition for IMC.

the place of the gathering

A very remote place

Access to Haut Plumette is not easy, because the road is very bumpy and made of crevasses, contrasting with the majestic pines that line part of the road. The locality is located at the bottom of a valley, and the ravines are always close. Better to have a solid off-road vehicle if you want to access it. For the road that descends vertiginously is not without danger.

The people of this locality live in difficult conditions, there is no school worthy of the name, no health center, and even motorcycles are not numerous in the area. Market gardening products do not allow them to meet their nutrition needs or those of their children.

UNICEF continues its support

UNICEF is involved in the management of severe acute malnutrition by providing plumpy nut to IMC that provides care for children with severe acute malnutrition in the community.

Marc Vincent, UNICEF Representative in Haiti, emphasizes the principle of equity. Acting against all forms of malnutrition is both affordable and an obligation for the organization. “Nutrition is a central issue for us because it determines the child’s life. We will continue to support the Haitian government in this regard. We are working in most remote and disadvantaged areas like Haut Plumette. We welcome the substantial contribution made by ECHO, which has supported our action for a long time, “he said. This will allow a better care of her children.

UNICEF is strengthening Leogane’s maternity

The child and maternal mortality rate in Haiti is one of the highest in the region. The Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), with the support of partners such as UNICEF, UNFPA, UNNOPS, Canada, intends to respond adequately to this situation.