UNICEF: Earthquake leaves nearly 70 per cent of schools damaged or destroyed in southwestern Haiti

Over a month after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, about 70 per cent of all schools in the Southwestern part of the country are still either damaged or destroyed, UNICEF said.

As part of the back-to-school campaign launched today, about 300,000 children are starting to gradually resume schooling in the three earthquake-stricken departments.

“I am shocked to see how many schools are flattened or damaged due to the earthquake,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “The extent of the damage to school buildings is worse than we initially thought. Repairing or rebuilding these schools will take time and resources. However, with or without schools, learning and teaching must continue now. The longer children wait, the more difficult it will be to get them back to school.”

The earthquake has already delayed school reopening by a month. If classrooms remain closed, UNICEF estimates that more than 230,000 children are at risk of dropping out of school in the Great Southern departments of Haiti.

As a result of the earthquake, many families lost their income and are currently struggling to meet their children’s education expenses. Every day outside of the classroom will push more vulnerable children into violence, abuse, exploitation, forced migration and even gang recruitment.

Together with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF is exploring several strategies to cope with the reduced number of classrooms currently available for teaching. For instance, schools that are still functional will host students from destroyed schools and classes will be given through a ‘double shift’ modality.

In some destroyed schools, the initial phase of the reconstruction work has begun and is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, should resources be made available. About 150 new schools will be rebuilt and 900 temporary learning spaces will be set up progressively.

Today, UNICEF has started the distribution of school materials in areas affected by the earthquake. In total, about 100,000 children will receive their own school kits as they gradually return to the classroom in the coming days and weeks. In partnership with the Haitian Government, UNICEF will also help provide mental health and psychosocial support to students and teachers, and incentives to teachers.

“Amidst the current turmoil in Haiti, going back to the classroom in earthquake-stricken areas means much more than just resuming learning,” said Maes. “School is where children reconnect with their friends, overcome trauma and return to normality through play. This very first day at school in southwestern Haiti is the beginning of a new chapter in the life of children affected by the earthquake, a sign of hope and joy for them and for their parents.”

In response to the earthquake, UNICEF is urgently seeking USD 25.5 million to rebuild new schools, repair the damaged ones and meet the immediate education needs of affected children. So far less than 20 per cent of this required funding has been received.

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