Seven-year-old Lovenska of Haiti works on a drawing at a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space in Delmas 6, downtown Port-au-Prince.
Emergency Response

Surge in Violence Fuels Humanitarian Crisis in Haiti

Escalating violence in and around Port-au-Prince has intensified in recent weeks, forcing thousands more women and children to flee their homes, compounding health and safety risks. Calling the situation for children "a living nightmare," UNICEF Haiti Representative Bruno Maes urged more support for the emergency response. "It is complete suffering. We cannot stay frozen."

Tens of thousands more people have been forced to flee escalating violence in Port-au-Prince since the beginning of the year as fighting between armed groups continues to grip Haiti’s capital city and neighboring Arbonite department.

Children are being shot and killed in the crossfire. Critical social services have all but collapsed. Medical supplies are scarce. Hospitals, under threat of attack, are being forced to evacuate patients. Many schools remain closed, shutting out 300,000 students.

“The population [of Haiti] is facing some of the worst human rights violations and threats to their lives in the country’s recent history,” UNICEF Representative in Haiti Bruno Maes said. “Each day brings new horrors, the loss of loved ones, homes being destroyed by fires or bullets and an ever-present shadow of fear.”

According to the latest data from UNICEF partners, at least 167 boys and girls were killed or injured by bullets in Haiti in 2023. Sexual violence against children is also escalating; 2,701 cases of sexual violence were reported between January and November last year, of which 1,895 involved children.

By end of January 2024, the number of internally displaced children had soared to 170,000 — double the number compared to the same time last year. 

Over 40 percent of the population is food insecure, contributing to high rates of child malnutrition, and access to safe drinking water and sanitation remains severely restricted, which complicates efforts to contain the latest resurgence of cholera.

Despite the scale and severity of the crisis, the lack of attention to Haiti poses a daunting challenge. The cost of indifference and inaction is unconscionable. The future of Haiti’s children is at stake. — Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti

As part of its ongoing emergency response in the country, UNICEF is working closely with government and partners to monitor the situation and to provide support and care to children and families in need, while calling on authorities at all levels to stop the violence and to prioritize the restoration of critical health, education and other social services.

UNICEF estimates that 3 million children across Haiti will require humanitarian aid in 2024. Over 1 million urgently need protection, with this number expected to rise if conditions worsen. Haiti is already the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, and prolonged conflict has only deepened vulnerabilities among the population.

Displaced children sit on the floor of a UNICEF-staffed and -supported nutrition site in Delmas, a commune in the Port-au-Prince metro area.
The scene at a UNICEF-staffed and -supported nutrition site in Delmas, a commune located in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. UNICEF is on the ground in Haiti working alongside partners to deliver emergency support and protection to children as the security situation in the capital city worsens. © UNICEF/UNI519104/Joseph

UNICEF has maintained a consistent presence in the country and is committed to staying and delivering multi-sectoral aid in affected areas, focusing on the most vulnerable children — children who are displaced and otherwise impacted by violence, children who become separated from their families, children who are malnourished and who are out of school.

Working alongside partners, UNICEF provides lifesaving assistance, ensuring access to medical care, psychosocial support and safe spaces where children can begin the process of healing and recovery. 

An injured child lies in a hospital bed in Port-au-Prince as a UNICEF staffer looks on.
Children are often caught in the crossfire of the escalating violence in Port-au-Prince. "Children’s playgrounds, schools, and homes have become war zones in many parts of the city," UNICEF Representative Bruno Maes said following his visit to Haiti's capital in early February. "I personally witnessed an 8-year-old child being injured by a bullet a few days ago while playing in the courtyard of her home. Fortunately, she was saved in time at the hospital with the support of our partners. However, these incidents are becoming a daily reality, and many do not have access or means to get help in time." © UNICEF Haiti/2024/Herold Joseph

In 2023, UNICEF helped the government of Haiti provide basic services to more than 1.1 million people with critical support, protection and emergency services and prepositioned supplies to support future deployments — but more funding is required to address growing needs across all major program areas: nutrition, education, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and child protection.

UNICEF is reaching some children in Haiti with nutrition, health care and education support — but more needs to be done, and donor support is needed to do it

According to its most recent situation report, UNICEF reached 86,159 conflict-affected children last year with education services and learning support — just 5 percent of its target — due largely to financial constraints. In health, UNICEF-supported interventions managed to reach 104,687 women, 150,227 girls and 138,899 boys across 10 departments — including people living in areas controlled by armed groups — but the goal had been to reach hundreds of thousands more.

In nutrition, UNICEF achieved 68 percent of its 2023 target in terms of number of children screened for malnutrition. Training and deploying a team of 40 community health workers to cover all neighborhoods in Cité Soleil, a high-needs municipality, helped reach thousands of children suffering from severe acute or moderate acute malnutrition with treatment. But needs continue to outstrip resources.

Much more needs to be done, and more donor support is needed to do it. "It is complete suffering," said Maes. "We cannot stay frozen... The future of Haiti’s children is at stake.”

Children displaced by violence in Haiti's capital city Port-au-Prince wait to be screened for malnutrition at a UNICEF support site in Delmas.
Children displaced by escalating violence in Port-au-Prince sit on the floor at a nutrition site UNICEF has set up in Delmas, where they will undergo screening and, if found to be malnourished, receive care and treatment. The neighborhood of Delmas 18 currently hosts more than 3,150 displaced people, including recent arrivals, mostly women and children. © UNICEF/UNI519102/Joseph

In 2024, UNICEF's plan for Haiti is to keep scaling the humanitarian response by providing support to the government, increasing access to basic services and helping to keep those services going. In addition to programs in water, sanitation and hygiene, education, health, nutrition and child protection, UNICEF also supports cholera rapid-response teams, gender-based violence prevention and response services and disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness activities.

Timely, flexible funding is essential for UNICEF to reach Haiti's most vulnerable, crisis-affected children.

UNICEF won’t stop until every child in Haiti is healthy, educated, protected and respected. Support UNICEF's humanitarian mission in Haiti. Donate today.



TOP PHOTO: Lovenska, 7, one of over 170,000 displaced children in Haiti, stays safe at a UNICEF-supported Child-Friendly Space in Delmas 6, downtown Port-au-Prince. "My family and I had to rush to the displacement site ... to seek refuge, as violence rages in our neighborhood," she said. © UNICEF/UNI516128. Video edited by Tong Su for UNICEF USA.