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Crisis in Haiti: “I thought it was the end for me”

Crisis in Haiti: “I thought it was the end for me”

 


PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI:It used to be very quiet in my neighborhood, says 9-year-old Jean* as he recalls what life used to be like in the Savane Pistachearea of ​​Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. I could go to school. I could see the doctor when I was sick. I could play with my friends. And I could eat as much as I wanted.

But everything changed overnight.

Jean says he was playing with some friends near his family's home when he heard loud noises nearby. Was it gunshots? Certainly not, not so close to his home. But as the sounds got closer, he decided to run home to see what was going on. I saw smoke rising into the sky. The houses in the neighborhood were burnt, he says. Our only escape route was through the back door. It all happened so fast. We didn't have time to bring anything.

When we left our neighborhood, we saw people who had been shot lying on the ground, covered in blood. Jean *, 9

Stories like Jeans' have become tragically common in recent months as gun violence has engulfed Port-au-Prince, spreading to the Artibonite department and other areas, forcing thousands of children and their families to flee for safety.

When we left our neighborhood, we saw people who had been shot lying on the ground, covered in blood. We were in the middle of the road and we didn't know what to do, says Jean. To escape the danger, we found somewhere on a hill. We spent the night there but were not noticed.

From bad to worse

The next day, Jean and his family continued their journey, although they did not know where to go next. There were many people in the same situation as us. Seeing all these people with bags and other belongings fleeing their neighborhoods was quite strange, he says.

The Jeans family found shelter, but it was too crowded to stay, so they continued on, looking for a safe place to rest. I was barefoot on the street, says Jean. I was hungry and thirsty. I thought it was the end for me.

A family leaves their home on May 1, 2024, following gang attacks in Solino, in the heart of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.
A family leaves their home on May 1, 2024, following gang attacks in Solino, in the heart of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. UNICEF/UNI573339/Erol

UNICEF estimates that 3 million children in Haiti will need humanitarian aid and protection in 2024

The first months of 2024 have been marked by a significant drop in security conditions for families in Haiti, prompted by an increase in protests and demonstrations across the country. Escalating armed violence has turned playgrounds, schools and children's homes into war zones in many parts of Port-au-Prince. It has also restricted the delivery of aid, which is having a devastating impact on some 5.5 million Haitians, including 3 million children who will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2024.

The jeans family found another shelter, but there was not enough room for the whole family. It was really hard, he says. It was hard to watch my father, older brother and uncle leave to find another shelter. I stayed with my mother, sisters, grandmother and aunt.

He told me that bandits had burned our house and even my school.

Fortunately, it didn't take long for the rest of the family to find another place. But a few days later they received terrible news: Jean's father had returned to their old neighborhood to try to retrieve some of the family's belongings, only to find that their house had been destroyed. The family was left with nothing.

He told me that bandits had burned our house and even my school, says Jean.

A safe space for children

Tens of thousands of Haitian children are experiencing horrors that no child should ever be exposed to fearing being separated from their family, walking streets littered with dead bodies, schools burned to the ground, and ultimately the risk of being attacked or killed as they search. somewhere safe to shelter.

Given these conditions, UNICEF and its local partner APADEH are creating Child friendly spaceincluding through mobile teams, to provide displaced children with access to engaging activities to help them cope with their recent experiences and provide them with a semblance of normality.

Children display works of art they created during psychosocial and educational activities organized by APADEH, in collaboration with UNICEF, at a school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Children display works of art they created during psychosocial and educational activities organized by APADEH, in collaboration with UNICEF, at a school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UNICEF/UNI557180/Erol

The children of Haiti need lasting peace

Jean says he is sad because he can't see his father and older brother regularly and because he can't go to school. I don't eat or sleep properly. I keep thinking about my friends. We sleep in this country, but the conditions are not good, he says. But I like to participate in the activities and games organized in the camp. I am learning new things and making new friends on the site.

Ultimately, however, Haiti's children need lasting peace to allow them to return to their communities, their schools, and the lives that have been put on hold while they seek safety.

I want to go home to my family, Jean says. I want to go back to school because my dream is to become a doctor to take care of suffering children.

Read more about UNICEF's response to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

UNICEF works around the world to meet the urgent needs of children. Your contribution will make a difference. Please donate today.

Treat

* Name changed for security reasons

This story was originally published on unicef.org

Sources

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2/ https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/crisis-haiti-i-thought-it-was-end-me

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