Thousands of children out of school in Haiti in wake of Hurricane Matthew
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (October 6, 2016) — Up to 130,000 vulnerable children in Haiti are estimated to be out of school following the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Matthew, Save the Children is warning. A number of schools supported by the organization have been damaged, and many others are being used as temporary shelters.
Save the Children has worked in Haiti for over 40 years. It supports 131 schools, including 27 in the departments of Sud and Grand’Anse and 39 in Port-au Prince.
In addition to an emergency response team, the organization is also deploying its Emergency Health Unit, staffed by specialists from around the world. The unit, made of up doctors and health experts, will initially focus on cholera prevention and provision of basic health services.
Save the Children’s emergency teams, in coordination with the government other aid agencies, will work with staff and partners on the ground to assess the immediate needs and help children and families affected.
Part of the organization’s response will include setting up "child-friendly spaces" to provide children unable to go to school with a safe and protected space. Here they can receive support from trained staff and can play with other children, while their parents deal with the aftermath of the hurricane.
"Our first priority is to ensure that the thousands of children and families who have been badly affected are given the immediate assistance needed," Kevin Novotny, Save the Children’s Country Director in Haiti said. "This includes keeping children safe and getting them back into school as soon as possible."
The full extent of the damage is yet to be assessed, but up to five million people are estimated to be affected, with 300,000 thought to be in need of humanitarian assistance. Latest reports suggest more than 100 people in Haiti have been killed.
There is also concern that the existing cholera outbreak could spread rapidly, as water shortages have been exacerbated in certain areas. The destruction of crop plantations and reports of livestock being killed in Acquin district and Sud department will worsen existing food insecurity.
As the most powerful Caribbean hurricane in nearly a decade struck the southwest coast of Haiti on Tuesday, Save the Children staff on the ground reported major devastation with severe damage to houses and buildings as a result of landslides and floods following the storm. Roads were also blocked and crop plantations decimated. 1,300 temporary shelters that have been set up across the country as homes have been destroyed.
Hurricane Matthew is now taking aim at the eastern coast of Florida over the next 24-28 hours, bringing with it the possibility of 145 mph winds, a dangerous storm surge and flooding. Every school district along the Florida coast is closed and two million people have been urged to evacuate across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Save the Children is prepositioning an emergency response team in Florida to be able to help families and children as soon as the storm passes. The team will assess needs and is preparing to set up child friendly spaces in shelters when it is safe to do so.