By Kennedy Nnamani
THE United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has warned that thousands of children are at risk of dying in Haiti as a result of malnutrition.
The organization made this disclosure today in a statement, noting that one in 20 children living in Cité Soleil, Haiti are at risk following the reduced access to basic health nutrition and water and sanitation services as a result of escalating violence, coupled with soaring food prices, inflation and food insecurity in the city.
The statement read that “an upsurge in gang-related violence has shut access to health services across some urban areas in Haiti, leaving one in 20 children living in Cité Soleil – a violence-ravaged commune in Port-au-Prince – at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition.”
According to the latest available data from UNICEF, approximately 20 percent of children under the age of five in Cité Soleil are suffering from severe or moderate acute malnutrition, five percentage points above the emergency threshold set by the World Health Organization, WHO. If violence continues, these figures may continue to grow.
According to the statement, Bruno Maes, UNICEF Haiti Representative noted that “we cannot sit idly by and watch children suffer from malnutrition and its complications.
“Thousands of children are at risk of dying and most health clinics where they live are closed, preventing them from receiving adequate health and nutrition care. Violence must stop in Cité Soleil so that malnourished children can receive the medical assistance they need to survive and grow,” he added.
He further noted that thousands of families and their children who stayed in Cité Soleil have urgent nutritional and health needs as parents and caregivers can no longer go to work in other areas of Port-au-Prince to secure access to food for their children.
In the meantime, UNICEF noted in the statement that it is in collaboration with the Haitian Ministry of Health, MSPP, and have prepositioned ready-to-use-therapeutic food, therapeutic milk and essential medicines and are supporting community health workers to scale up screening and referral of malnutrition cases.
“So far, 9,506 children have been screened for acute malnutrition and 1,918 malnourished children have received life-saving treatment,” it said.
Recall that since 8 July, a new upsurge of violence erupted as rival gangs wage fierce battles in Cité Soleil, a municipality of a quarter million inhabitants.
Already, the United Nations, UN, recorded that between 8 and 17 July 2022, over 471 people were killed, injured or unaccounted for. Around 3,000 people have also fled their homes, including hundreds of unaccompanied children, while at least 140 houses have been destroyed or burnt down.
Meanwhile, UNICEF is supporting in providing services such as treatment of acute malnutrition, micronutrient supplementation and promotion, protection and support of infant and young child feeding practices, deworming and immunization, zinc supplementation during episodes of diarrhea at health facility and community levels.
According to the statement, UNICEF has so far delivered near 1 million litres of drinking water to meet the urgent needs of 15,000 people every day, distributed 500 hygiene kits to serve 2,500 people and deployed two mobile health clinics to the Bois Neuf and Belekou neighbourhoods of Cité Soleil, to provide medical and nutritional care to more than 500 people, the majority of whom are women and children.
In addition, outside Cité Soleil, UNICEF has provided 100 mattresses, clothes and nearly 700 gallons of drinking water to displaced families, assisted 800 children with psychosocial support activities and provided 180 children with medical care via a mobile health and nutritional clinic.
While calling for an immediate end to the crisis, UNICEF urged all parties to refrain from the use of violence and ensure women and children have access to basic services.