Recovery battle goes on as Haiti marks ’quake anniversary

Chaos and misery in Haiti pre-dated last January's earthquake.

Constant political turmoil, violence and environmental degradation had already helped earn an unenviable title for the republic: 'poorest nation in the Americas'.

So when Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince started shaking at 4.53pm local time on January 12 last year, that monster earthquake was shattering a city where half the population already had no access to toilets, only one third could find tap water and 86pc were living in slum conditions.

One year on and Unicef has done an extraordinary amount to help the country's four million children, boosted by worldwide generosity including more than �9,000 donated by EDP readers.

That was the sum given by those who filled in a Unicef coupon carried in the EDP when we highlighted the charity's role in the disaster a year ago.

Countless thousands more were donated to earthquake victims by well-wishers across Norfolk who held numerous fundraisers well into 2010.

There were the Hope for Haiti concerts in Halesworth, the Ingoldisthorpe Primary School pupils' skip-a-thon, the Caribbean curry buffet lunch at King's Lynn's College of West Anglia, Kelling primary children's 1,000 sponsored laps of their playing field, a choir concert in Beccles, and a pyjama plunge by Fakenham Junior School's water babies' class.

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At Lowestoft College students and staff gave something up for the day including chocolate and crisps and put the money towards helping Haiti, Wroxham Bure Valley and Broadland Rotary clubs were among many across the county who collected thousands to buy shelter boxes for victims – the list goes on.

But despite a great deal which has been achieved with its share of the world's outpouring of generosity, the United Nations children's agency has marked today's first anniversary with a grim message.

Haiti's children continue to suffer access problems to basic water, sanitation, healthcare, education services and protection against disease.

And this week more than one million people – including some 380,000 children – still live in crowded camps.

As if one major catastrophe wasn't enough, Haitians have also had to cope with a cholera outbreak which started in October, and Hurricane Tomas which created further havoc in November.

The recovery process from all this is just beginning, says Unicef in a report published to mark the anniversary.

'Children in particular suffered and continue to suffer enormously because of successive emergencies experienced in 2010, and they have yet to fully enjoy their right to survival, health, education, and protection,' said Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, Unicef's Haiti representative.

Haiti's deep-seated and historic problems needed more than an emergency response, she added. It was even more important for organisations like Unicef to focus on helping with enduring projects for the future.

What has Unicef done with donations given by our readers and many others across the world?

In the aftermath of the quake the charity, sometimes with partners, has:

Immunised two million children against preventable diseases such as polio, diphtheria, and measles.

Distributed 360,000 insecticide-treated bed-nets to more than 163,000 households in the malaria-endemic southern coastal regions.

Transported a daily average of 8.3 million litres of safe water to about 680,000 people. With the continuing cholera outbreak, Unicef is providing more than 10.9 tons of chlorine and over 45 million water purification tablets to ensure safe water for three million people in the capital city and surrounding towns.

Provided more than 11,300 latrines serving over 800,000 people. Every day over 600 latrines are 'de-sludged' as part of Unicef's constant efforts to maintain safe sanitation. Longer term, the charity is investing in water systems and promoting community-led sanitation.

Helped register and reunite children separated from their families. To date 4,948 children have been registered and 1,265 have been reunited.

They have put in place 369 'child-friendly spaces' for nearly 95,000 children across earthquake-affected areas and Unicef has also taken the initiative in tackling gender-based violence and child trafficking.

Established schools, procured tents and educational materials and allocated resources so that 720,000 children could resume their lessons, and in some cases, start school for the first time.

Nonetheless, more than half of Haiti's children do not attend school and construction continues to be hampered by rubble clearing and land ownership problems

Provided nutritional supplements, in a country where one in three children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition. By mid-year, a network of 107 'baby friendly tents' was fully operational, offering nutrition advice and counselling for mothers and children, including a safe space to breastfeed. To date, more than 102,000 mothers and children have benefited.

Ms Gruloos-Ackermans acknowledges that this first difficult year has yielded results, but says much more must be done to help those displaced by the quake and those in remote rural areas struggling to meet their basic needs.

She added: 'Haiti's children have a right to grow up with education, nutrition, clean water, and safe sanitation; they have a right to be free from exploitation and disease – and we believe that with support and commitment, the seeds of recovery and development can be planted and these goals can be achieved.'

Unicef is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about its work and to find out how you can still help the appeal visit: www.unicef.org or ring 0844 801 2410.