A girl sleeps on her mother’s shoulder at a mobile clinic organized by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health for families displaced due to violence in Cité Soleil, a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Emergency Response

5 Ways UNICEF Is Helping Children in Haiti

Violence, poverty, school closures and a resurgence of cholera and malnutrition are pushing children and their families to the breaking point. 

Crisis conditions in Haiti have swiftly deteriorated, posing numerous threats to children's health, safety and well-being.

With limited access to safe drinking water, affordable food and basic education and health services, children and their families are reaching a breaking point.

UNICEF Senior Advisor Aisha Sabar was recently in Cité Soleil, an area of Haiti's capital city Port-au-Prince suffering the worst effects of surging gang violence and a ruptured economy, for a firsthand look at UNICEF's ongoing emergency response.

"Humanitarian aid is the only buffer preventing a descent into chaos," Sabar said.

Despite the extremely insecure and volatile environment, UNICEF has been working with partners to step up efforts to protect families and provide the lifesaving support they desperately need.

Here are five ways UNICEF is supporting children in Haiti:

1. Tackling child malnutrition 

Close to 5 million people in Haiti are estimated to be facing acute hunger. Tens of thousands of children under age 5 are suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), also known as child wasting disease — an increase of 30 percent compared to last year.

Malnourished children are more vulnerable to illness and have a harder time recovering from treatable diseases like cholera.

A top priority for UNICEF in Haiti is to ensure a steady supply of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a shelf-stable high-energy peanut paste enriched with vitamins and minerals that is a highly effective treatment for SAM. By taking three sachets a day for six to eight weeks, a severely malnourished child can recover completely.

A healthcare worker measures the upper arm circumference of a young girl at a malnutrition clinic run by UNICEF, in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A child's upper arm circumference measurement lands in the red — indicating a case of severe acute malnutrition. © UNICEF/UN0721773/Joseph

2. Delivering critical health supplies

Haiti has been dealing with a resurgence in cholera after more than three years without a single reported case. UNICEF teams are working with partners in vulnerable communities to improve access to safe drinking water and distribute supplies to help fight the spread of the disease, which can be lethal for a malnourished child.

A child receives an oral cholera vaccine during a UNICEF-supported campaign in Mirebalais, Haiti.
A child receives an oral cholera vaccine during a UNICEF-supported campaign in Mirebalais, Haiti. © UNICEF/U.S. CDC/UN0771585/Georges Harry Rouzier

UNICEF is also supporting the rollout of a national vaccination campaign, launched by Haiti's Ministry of Health, by providing oral cholera vaccine doses, cold boxes for vaccine transport and educating communities about cholera risks. 

In Cité Soleil — where most health centers are closed or are no longer operational because it has become too dangerous for the staff to report to work — UNICEF and partners are reaching children and families with essential health care services through a mobile clinic. The few health centers that are still functioning are receiving equipment and medical supplies from UNICEF.

3. Helping kids keep learning, safely

Gang violence — and direct attacks on schools and school children — have forced many schools in Haiti to close, essentially crippling the country's education system.

Out-of-school children face all kinds of risks, including being recruited to fight by armed groups. They miss out on school meals and on the stabilizing effects of classroom routines and regular access to teachers and peers.

A boy opens a bag containing UNICEF-provided school supplies in Morency, Haiti.
By providing school supplies, UNICEF is helping kids in Haiti keep learning. © UNICEF/UN0799802/Rouzier

UNICEF promotes and supports safe spaces for kids to keep learning, providing school supplies and cash support to schools to help retain teachers and improve school infrastructure.

4. Providing psychosocial support to traumatized children

Children in Haiti are under constant threat due to increasing armed violence, particularly in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Reports of kidnappings and sexual and gender-based violence have all increased. Family separation and displacement are also taxing children's mental health and well-being. 

UNICEF continues to advocate against armed violence against children and communities, including attacks on schools, while working to make sure children who need psychosocial support can get it. UNICEF also works with local partners to strengthen protection services and community networks to aid victims of gender-based violence, unaccompanied and separated children and those associated with armed groups. 

Families gathered at a UNICEF-supported site for those displaced by violence in Tabarre, Haiti.
Children who are displaced by violence and out of school can become separated from their families at great risk to their health and well-being, both physical and mental. UNICEF works with partners in Haiti to strengthen child protection services and local networks. © 

5. Assisting with disaster recovery and preparedness

The August 2021 earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti killed over 2,200 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes and reduced critical infrastructure to rubble. 

The country is still recovering from that disaster, working to rebuild health, water, sanitation and hygiene, protection, education and other services.

UNICEF has been at the forefront of Haiti's earthquake response since Day One, and continues to support recovery efforts, including the rehabilitation of schools and water systems, and providing vulnerable families with cash support. 

UNICEF is also working to increase preparedness ahead of the upcoming hurricane season, to help ensure that already vulnerable populations can better weather any upcoming storms.

In Les Cayes, Haiti, children play in the rubble of homes destroyed in the 2021 earthquake.
Haiti is still recovering from the damage caused by the August 2021 earthquake. Above, a residential neighborhood in Les Cayes, Haiti, still bore the scars from that disaster a year later. © UNICEF/U.S. CDC/UN0695565/Roger LeMoyne

Half of Haiti’s children are likely to depend on humanitarian aid to survive 2023.

To meet urgent needs, UNICEF is scaling its emergency response in the country — but lacks the full funding required to meet its targets. 

Help UNICEF reach more children and families with lifesaving support. Your contribution can make a difference. Donate today.

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TOP PHOTO: A girl sleeps on her mother’s shoulder at a mobile clinic organized by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health for families displaced due to violence in Cité Soleil, a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. © UNICEF Haiti/Joseph. Video edited for UNICEF USA by Tong Su.

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