UNICEF Says At Least Two Children Killed While Fleeing Violence In Haiti

(CMC) – United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says it has received reports that at least two children were fatally shot while fleeing violence in areas controlled by armed groups in downtown Port-au-Prince in Haiti over the past weekend.

It said many more children are reported to be injured and along with its United Nations partners, they are in the process of documenting and verifying the information received as violence continues to ravage many neighbourhoods in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince.

“Conditions on the ground remain extremely dangerous for children. Children’s playgrounds, schools, and homes have become war zones in many parts of the city. I personally witnessed an eight-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,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF representative in Haiti.

“Regrettably, such attacks are not isolated. According to the latest data from our partners, at least 167 boys and girls were killed or injured by bullets in 2023,” he added.

The UNICEF official said some neighbourhoods have turned into a living hell for children.

“Violence has escalated rapidly since the beginning of the year. Killing children is a grave violation of human rights. Once again, hospitals have been forced to evacuate their patients, including newborns, due to fear of attacks by armed groups,” Maes said.

Since February 5, several attacks have occurred in Port-au-Prince, especially in the communes of La Saline, Carrefour, Cite Soleil, and Tabarre, leading to the displacement of more than 2,600 people. Most of them found refuge in host communities.

Sexual violence against children is also escalating, particularly in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince and the Artibonite department.

According to data collected from Child Protection and Gender-based Violence stakeholders, 2,701 cases of sexual violence were reported between January and November last year, of which 1,895 involved children.

UNICEF said that the surge in armed violence across Haiti has triggered a profound humanitarian crisis, with the number of internally displaced children soaring to 170,000.

It estimates that three million children across Haiti will require humanitarian aid due to escalating violence, malnutrition, cholera resurgence, and collapsing basic services. Over a third urgently need protection, with this number expected to rise if conditions worsen.

“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,” said Maes.

UNICEF said to respond effectively to the humanitarian needs in Haiti, it is requesting US$221.7 million for 2024.