June 23, 2024

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Between 30 and 50% of members of armed groups in Haiti are children

Between 30 and 50% of members of armed groups in Haiti are children

While armed violence continues to deteriorate the situation in Haiti, the United Nations estimates that between 30 and 50 percent of members of armed groups are children who are subject to coercion, abuse and exploitation, the UN warned on Friday. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

They also estimate that 90% of Haiti’s population lives in poverty, and that three million children remain in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, amid ongoing social, economic and political fragility caused by violence that has plunged Haiti into chaos.

The agency pointed to years of political turmoil, which, combined with devastating economic conditions, has led to the proliferation of armed groups that many of the country’s children are increasingly forced to join, a clear violation of their rights.

Haiti’s children are stuck in a vicious cycle of suffering. “They are forced to join armed groups out of sheer desperation, which includes horrific violence, poverty and the collapse of the systems that should protect them,” the agency’s executive director said.

Catherine Russell explained that armed groups use children in various tasks, such as cooks, cleaners, “wives” or guards. “But what these children have in common is a loss of innocence and connection to their communities. The impact on every child affected is a tragedy that requires urgent action,” Russell added.

The head of the agency also stressed the need to prioritize their protection and well-being, including safely ending contact with armed groups, Ensure their reintegration into society and facilitate safe access to essential services and support.

Exposure to violence and recruitment

The latest estimates indicate this More than half a million children in Haiti live in neighborhoods controlled by armed groupsThis exposes them to a greater risk of violence and child recruitment.

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Children are often forced to join armed groups such as: This is to support their families or because of threats directed at them or those close to them“, warns UNICEF. In addition, many children join groups after being separated from their loved ones, as a means of survival and protection.

The recruitment and use of children by armed groups constitutes a serious violation of their rights, and the recruitment of minors of any age into armed groups constitutes a clear violation of international law.

Reintegration support

UNICEF and the Haitian Ministries of Justice, Education, Labor and Social Affairs recently agreed on joint ways of working to support the reintegration of children who were former members of armed groups. This agreement represents a milestone in preserving their well-being.

So far in 2024, violence has intensified, with more than 2,500 people killed, injured or abducted. The United Nations has verified more than 400 serious violations against children. Meanwhile, families remain displaced by the violence. There are now more than 180,000 internally displaced children.

UNICEF said it is intensifying its efforts to protect families, even those who are trapped and isolated from basic services. In collaboration with the government and its partners, the agency helps maintain national and regional neighborhood systems and services, and in the highest risk areas, that protect children and families.

The agency called on the international community to accelerate efforts to protect children in Haiti:

  • Ensure that priority is given to the internationally supported security mission Protect children and civilians and commit to respecting humanitarian law And a space for humanitarian work
  • Support efforts aimed at Prevent and end grave violations against childrenIncluding protecting schools, hospitals and other facilities that depend on them, and protecting humanitarian spaces
  • Strengthen support for countries’ efforts to Ensuring continuous access to humanitarian aidwidely predictable and unhindered, including the safe movement of humanitarian and frontline workers and the delivery of essential services and supplies to populations in need
  • Increase immediate financing To meet the humanitarian and protection needs of the most vulnerable groups, and ensure that aid reaches affected children as soon as possible, including those who have fled or been released from armed groups.
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