» UNESCO assessing urgent needs in restoring education after the Haiti hurricane
21.11.2016 - Education Sector

UNESCO assessing urgent needs in restoring education after the Haiti hurricane

© MINUSTAH

UNESCO is working to restore education for children and youth following the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.

The hurricane, which hit the southern parts of the country on 4 October 2016, has disrupted education for more than 100,000 children, with over 770 schools affected, 150 of which are currently being used as shelters.

In the worst affected areas 90 per cent of houses have been destroyed and there has already been a rise in the number of cholera cases and people facing severe food insecurity and malnutrition as the majority of crops are destroyed.

UNESCO joined partner UN agencies and the Haitian Government in the aftermath to launch a Flash Appeal aimed at raising US$119m funds to reach the immediate needs of 750,000 people. Within the appeal UNESCO made a USD 800,000 proposal focusing on the resumption of education activities in secondary schools, vocational training and tertiary education institutions in the seven most affected departments.

Physical and mental rehabilitation go hand in hand

Mr Paul Gomis, Head of UNESCO Haiti Office, said: “We have five main priorities: rehabilitation of schools from roofs to desks and furniture, kits and school manuals, disaster risk reduction, cholera health education and psycho-social support.

“We are very aware in this kind of emergency, that physical rehabilitation and psycho-social support go hand in hand. It is of little use to restore buildings if people are left severely traumatised.”

To address immediate difficulties related to secondary education UNESCO is supporting the Ministry of Education with rapid and light rehabilitation of the affected school infrastructure, distribution of school equipment, and coordination, assessments and information management activities.

Mr Gomis said: “Schools are not only urgently needed so that children can have some routine restored in their lives and continue learning but the buildings themselves are needed as shelters. Last week we had two full days of rain which meant that people already with no roof over their heads were hit again. And school buildings are also needed as polling stations for the elections which were due to take place but were suspended by the disaster.”

The second phase of UNESCO assistance involves participating in a detailed and comprehensive Post Disaster Needs Assessment.

Restoring education is one of the vital signs of recovery after a natural disaster. It allows communities to restart their daily lives and re-establish livelihoods while children and youth benefit from a return to routine and continue building the necessary capacities to ensure a strong foundation for their future. 

As one of the primary partners of the Ministry of Education in the sectors of Teacher Training, Revision of Curriculum, Vocational training/informal education and Higher education, UNESCO Port-au-Prince is focused on providing sustainable support to education while at the same time reducing vulnerability to future disasters.

UNESCO supports the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools, which advocates for long-term resilience of the education community, an important aspect in a country which is among the most   exposed to disaster risks.

UNESCO has been supporting the Ministry of Education in integrating Disaster Risk Reduction into the formal education system including standardized training tools and training of school directors and teachers on risks and best practices. It is currently providing assistance in the evaluation of vulnerability of over 100 schools in the Northern departments of Haiti and implementing public education and awareness activities.

UNESCO hopes to widen the array of its longer-term activities to the affected territories and adapt its education response to the specific needs of the most vulnerable communities reducing their exposure to disaster risks and ensuring prompt recovery in the aftermath of a catastrophe.

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