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Trip to Haiti: Hope and faith for the future

Dayle Haddon, a U.S. Fund for UNICEF ambassador, recently returned from a visit to Haiti. Here are some of her impressions on UNICEF’s on-going Haiti relief and recovery efforts.

The power of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti hit home as we arrived in Champs de Mars, the center of Port-au-Prince. The vast Presidential Palace leaned awkwardly to one side, flattened and crumbling like a giant fallen wedding cake. Everyone stood silently, awed by the power of what nature had done.

I was in Haiti with an amazing UNICEF team to see the effects of the earthquake and the UNICEF programs that are helping children and their communities with the long-term recovery efforts.

In the first days of my trip seeing the effects of the earthquake on the city and the people, it all seemed so overwhelming, an impossible situation. How could you help? Where would you even begin?

Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti, told us that UNICEF’s three priorities in Haiti are education, nutrition and child protection.

In a briefing we learned about some of the difficult challenges that remain two years since the earthquake devastated the country.   Permanent housing is still a problem with approximately 550,000 people living in tents and semi-permanent structures.  This is an acute issue since the rainy season is underway, increasing the risks of floods and mudslides. Serious health issues persist: malnutrition and lack of access to vaccinations for children, as well as high maternal mortality rates. A recent outbreak of cholera took the lives of nearly 7,000 people.  On top of this the country also faces a 70% unemployment rate.

Photo courtesy of Sherry Madigan White | Dayle Haddon visited UNICEF programs for Haiti relief and recovery , March 2012.

However, as the days go by, a little light starts to glimmer through. Bit by bit, UNICEF is making progress. We see it in the schools.  We visited both a public and private school that were completely destroyed by the earthquake. Following the earthquake, UNICEF immediately set up temporary tents and started building classrooms. They delivered school kits, furniture, and teaching materials. Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities were set up, including hand washing stations. The classes today look clean and orderly.  It was hard to imagine they had been destroyed.

As we walked the muddy streets of a slum outside Port-au-Prince we saw how UNICEF has rehabilitated the water systems of poor neighborhoods damaged by the earthquake. These systems deliver clean water at kiosks affecting more than 80,000 residents and 800,000 indirectly. A young girl slipped 1 gourde (2 cents) through a grill to a man inside a kiosk. Immediately a gush of clean water emptied into the yellow plastic bucket she had shoved under the pipe. Once the bucket was full, she deftly swung it to the top of her head and gracefully set off for home.

There were many success stories we saw and heard about. How UNICEF had set up revenue generating activities for young women so they could develop small businesses. How youth leaders help the children learn to play again. In one rural community, we were delighted to watch as the children opened a box of games and toys sent by UNICEF donors, their eyes wide with excitement.

We visited hospitals, clinics, HIV and cholera centers. In a campaign in April UNICEF is aiming to vaccinate 2,500,000 children. I was thrilled to give one baby her first oral vaccine.

It was a full trip. I returned overwhelmed with facts and images and wondered how all this was going to get done. There is one thing I can count on: the UNICEF team on the ground reassured me with their positivity, energy, hope, conviction and passion.

When I think of  the UNICEF team and the hundreds of people working for the betterment of  Haiti- including all those that so generously donate finances, time, and energy- and the amazing fortitude of the people of Haiti, I have hope and faith for the future.

10 Comments

  1. Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like an incredibly eye-opening trip! It is reassuring to hear that UNICEF is still tirelessly working for the betterment of Haiti two years after the devastating earthquake.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Kerri. I can attest that UNICEF IS working tirelessly in Haiti…and elsewhere on behalf of those who need it most…especially the children!

  2. Posted April 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I am so proud of you and the work you are doing.
    Haiti has had such a bad go of it. Thank you for
    bringing attention to what is happening.

  3. Posted April 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Great work Dayle, Thank you for bringing your voice to this issue.

  4. Posted April 15, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    What a inspirational post! Hope and faith for the future – thank you for sharing this Dayle and UNICEF.

  5. Posted April 15, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    An inspirational post! Thank you for sharing Dayle and UNICEF!

  6. Posted April 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    An eye opening account of the Haitian plight today. UNICEF is clearly on the ground and at the forefront of relief and rebuilding efforts. Thank you for shedding light on Haiti through your journey and documenting your narrative so well for the rest of us.

  7. Posted April 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    An eye-opening account of the plight of Haiti today. UNICEF is clearly on the ground and at the forefront of the relief and rebuilding efforts. Thank you for documenting your personal narrative and sharing your journey with the rest of us.

  8. Posted April 19, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for taking the time to make your comments. With your help each of us can make a difference for a child in Haiti!

  9. Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Dearest Dayle,
    Thank you for coming to Haiti and helping share our story. Children here continue to need support and the kindness of people like you will make that happen.
    love Cara

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