Early assessments show extensive quake damage to schools in Haiti

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UNICEF Representative in Haiti Bruno Maes and Minister of Education Marie Lucie Joseph tour and assess damage to College Mazenod in Camp-Perrin, Les Cayes, Haiti. © UNICEF/UN0503640/Rouzier

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PORT-AU-PRINCE / PANAMA / NEW YORK, 18 August 2021 -- Preliminary assessments conducted Tuesday by UNICEF and Haitian officials in one of the three departments hardest hit by Saturday's earthquake, followed by Tropical Depression Grace on Monday, revealed extensive destruction to schools, just weeks before they are due to re-open.

Initial estimates show that 94 of the 255 schools in South Department are completely destroyed or have sustained partial damages. Assessments have yet to take place in Nippes and Grand'Anse departments, as well as other communities that have yet to be reached.

"It will be extremely difficult for parents, teachers and the government to get children safely back to school just three weeks from now, when schools re-open on September 7," said Bruno Maes, UNICEF's Representative in Haiti, after visiting a damaged school in Mazenod, near Les Cayes. "But it is so crucial for children who have just gone through this traumatic earthquake-plus-extreme weather experience, to have the normalcy and stability of being in a classroom with their friends and teachers."

The official tally of deaths and destruction is still growing. As of late Tuesday, at least 1,941 people had been killed and over 9,900 injured. Over 115,000 houses had been damaged or destroyed, and nearly 580,000 people, or about 40 per cent of the population in the three departments, were in need of emergency assistance.

"The latest calamity comes on top of two years that saw children out of school for months at a time due to political or security challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic," Maes said. "Haiti's children need solidarity and support. Parents and teachers who have lost everything will need support. And we will need resources to rebuild some schools, rehabilitate others, equip classes with desks, teachers and students with pedagogical and school kits. Putting children back in classrooms is perhaps the best way to make sure they -- and their families and communities -- can recover."

UNICEF is rushing life-saving supplies including medicine, safe water, hygiene and sanitation material, and tarpaulins, to the affected areas, even as flooding and mudslides hamper relief efforts.

UNICEF estimates that it will need US$15 million to respond to the most urgent needs of at least 385,000 people including 167,000 children under the age of five for a period of eight weeks. This initial funding requirement will be reviewed and adjusted in the coming weeks as the impact on children and families becomes clearer.