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HomeNewsRegional NewsUNICEF reports nine-fold increase in violence targeting schools in Haiti

UNICEF reports nine-fold increase in violence targeting schools in Haiti

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UNITED NATIONS, CMC – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says acts of armed violence targeting schools in Haiti have spiked nine-fold in one year amid rising insecurity and widespread unrest.

“Violence continues to take a heavy toll on children’s lives in and around Port-au-Prince, and schools are no longer spared,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF’s representative in Haiti.

“As children reel from the effects of armed violence, insecurity in Haiti shows no sign of abating. The targeting of schools by armed groups is having an enormous impact on children’s safety, well-being and ability to learn,” he added.

UNICEF said the consequences of these targeted attacks are beginning to cripple the French-speaking Caribbean country’s education system. There have been reports of at least one school set ablaze, which killed one student, alongside the kidnapping of at least two staff members.

In the first six days of February, UNICEF said escalating violence in urban areas triggered the closure of 30 schools while more than one quarter of education institutions remain shuttered since October.

“Yet, conditions on the ground remain insecure,” UNICEF said.

The UN aid coordination office (OCHA) said that armed groups control 60 percent of Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital.

UNICEF said that, when armed groups target schools, they frequently loot school equipment, including desks, benches, boards, laptops, photocopiers, batteries and solar panels. Bags of rice, dough and maize used for school meals have also been stolen.

UNICEF said that children lost an average of one and a half school days per week in January amid shootings, looting and kidnappings.

In the first four months of the academic year, October to February, 72 schools were reportedly targeted, compared with eight during the same period last year, UNICEF said.

With social unrest rising in past weeks, it said many school principals have taken the decision to shutter classrooms to protect children from potential attacks.

UNICEF said that, on January 26, students were forced to evacuate when violent street protests over the killing of 14 police personnel spread nationwide.

Without urgent action to protect schools from violence, UNICEF predicted that students will lose an estimated 36 days of school by the end of June.

“A child who is scared to go to school is a child more at risk of being recruited by armed groups. We must act urgently to protect children’s lives and futures. Once considered and respected as safe havens, he said schools have recently become “targets for violence.”

Maes added that “in certain urban areas of the country, armed groups consider looting schools as a lucrative alternative to other forms of extortion and crime. This must stop.”

Despite this grim scenario, UNICEF said the Haitian Ministry of Education has stepped up its efforts, opening three quarters of its schools by December 2022, compared to less than one in 10 that were open in October.

In the face of the current conditions, UNICEF urged all actors to refrain from any action that jeopardises children’s right to an education. It has also called on the government to ensure schools are safe and to hold accountable groups and individuals who harm or threaten students.

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