By Rudina Vojvoda
NEW YORK, 30 January, 2012 – With 43 per cent of its people under 18 years old, Haiti has one of the youngest populations in the world. Yet the country’s young people continue to suffer from a lack of opportunities and remain vulnerable in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
Listen to the Podcast in Streaming MP3 format
Before the quake, 55 per cent of children were missing out on their right to an education. Despite post-disaster efforts to return children to the classroom, many remain out of school. Additionally, issues related to child development receive little attention, especially outside urban areas.
To highlight the challenges faced by youth, UNICEF and partners PANOS Caribbean and Fondation haitienne d’Aide aux Vulnérables are providing media training to vulnerable children. In these trainings, young people learn how to use radio and video equipment, write reports and take pictures to bring attention to the needs and challenges facing their peers.
UNICEF moderator Femi Oke discussed this innovative program with three of its organizers: Margarette Altidor, President of Fondation haitienne d’Aide aux Vulnérables; Jean-Jacques Simon, UNICEF Haiti Chief of Communication; and Jan Voordouw, Programme Coordinator of PANOS Caribbean.
According to Mr. Simon, the project has successfully helped children address their concerns about education, health sanitation and other aspects of day-to-day life.
“We have created unique productions where you can understand what the children of Haiti are going through,” said Mr. Simon. “The scars are not completely healed, and one of the goals here is to prepare youth for the future. Building the future of this country is one big challenge, but it’s a challenge that youth must be part of.”
Discussing opportunities for young people, Mrs. Altidor called on Haitian institutions to play a bigger role in training and educating young people. “It’s not only a job for the international organizations, but Haitian organizations, too. Young people in Haiti should try to do their best,” said Mrs. Altidor.
Tools for survival
The 2010 earthquake in Haiti was one of the largest to strike the Caribbean in the last two centuries. More than 220,000 people were killed in the disaster, and over a million remained displaced one year later. During catastrophes like this, and in the recovery phase that follows, communication is a crucial survival tool.
“It is when the population needs the information the most,” said Mr. Voordouw, pointing out that the media skills children learned during their training were not only marketable talents for the participants, but a benefit to the community as well.
“In the Haitian culture, children can be seen but cannot be heard, so when it happens, [it] can be very useful,” he continued.
And the children’s stories are having an effect.
“The problems get solved,” Mr. Voordouw said. “We have had some indications that domestic violence went down after the children spoke about it.”