Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. To make matters worse, natural disasters have devastated the lives of vulnerable families and children. In 2010, an earthquake destroyed vast parts of the country. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, leaving thousands of families without food or water, causing severe damage to infrastructure and claiming the lives of hundreds of people.
Children today are more vulnerable than ever beforee
Children who have lost parental care find a new home in SOS Children’s Village CapHaïtien (photo: SOS archives)
Cap Haïtien is located in the Northern Department. Its harbour makes it the second most important city in the country and about one million people live in the region.
Poverty is high in the northern areas of the country; about 70 per cent live in poverty in the Northern Department.
People living in rural areas are more likely to be poor. The majority live off the crops they grow – this makes them very vulnerable when there is too much or too little rain. Sanitation facilities, electricity and clean drinking water are also lacking in rural areas.
As a result of the hard living condition in the countryside, many people move to Cap Haïtien in search of a better life. They often end up living in informal settlements; here they live in inadequate housing with limited access to health care and education.
Children, especially those without parental care, are especially vulnerable in these living conditions.
Children suffering from preventable and treatable illnesses
In many poor areas of the city there is also a lack of proper latrines or clean water. Cholera, an ongoing problem in the country, spreads much faster in such conditions.
Malnutrition is also a problem in Cap Haitien, because families don’t have enough money to provide the right kind of food to feed themselves. More than half of the population is undernourished. Around one in five children isn’t growing appropriately due to poor nutrition. This in turn makes them more vulnerable to illnesses.
Many of these illnesses are both preventable and treatable. However, there is a lack of accessible and affordable medical care. The unstable economic and political situation has resulted in low spending in public health care. Women and children bear the brunt of this lack of investment – very few women receive prenatal care or give birth in a hospital. One in every 93 women dies during pregnancy.
What we do in Cap Haïtien
SOS Children’s Villages runs primary and secondary schools in northern Haiti (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children’s Villages has been working in Cap Haïtien since 1989.
Strengthen Families: The family strengthening programme supports families so that they can stay together. We increased our activities after the 2010 earthquake and currently over 5,000 vulnerable children and adults benefit from our support in 16 community centres.
Care in families: For children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents, SOS families can provide a loving home for children. Brothers and sisters grow up in the same home, and are cared for by an SOS parent.
Education: The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, where over 700 children, both from the SOS Children’s Village and the local community, receive primary and secondary education.
Support for young people: When young people feel ready to move out of their SOS home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, they can move into shared accommodation. We provide counselling and guidance until they are ready to live independently.
Vocational training: We run training courses where young people learn the skills they need to become mechanics, electricians, plumbers, builders, beauticians or tailors. Up to 400 young people can receive training here. We also offer literacy courses to local adults.