Fear Of Rise In Child Sex Abuse After Hurricane Matthew In Haiti

A girl looks back in an area destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Les Anglais, HaitiReuters

Fears of a rise in child abuse, sexual violence, child labour and child trafficking in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti has prompted aid organisations working in the region to step up their long-term efforts.

Christian charity World Vision is scaling up its plans to set up protection centres for children who have suffered as a result of the devastating storm.

Matthew ripped through Haiti last week, killing more than 1,000 people, destroying thousands of homes and displacing more than 1.3 million people. Around 100,000 children are now unable to attend school after their school buildings were either devastated by the storm or used as emergency shelters.

World Vision has distributed aid to more than 15,000 people in the aftermath of the hurricane, and is now planning to set up 27 Child Friendly Spaces (CFSs) in the areas worst affected by the crisis.

"Natural disasters, sadly, always cause an increase in cases of child abuse, sexual violence, child labour and child trafficking. We are very concerned that the current situation in Haiti will give rise to such cases as a consequence of the latest disaster," said Fabiola Brignol, advocacy manager for World Vision Haiti.

"We fear that next big disaster to hit Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew will be a child protection crisis. According to a FAFO report published in 2015, 207,000 Haitian children were trapped in exploitative domestic labour. Almost one in three had lost a parent and over 10 per cent were orphans.

"These children are susceptible to beatings, sexual assaults and other abuses. And worryingly it is the areas in the south of Haiti that have the highest rates of child domestic labour. World Vision fears that following the devastation of Hurricane Matthew which destroyed large parts of the south, desperate families unable to support their children will push them into domestic labour."

Brignol warned that many children are unable to access basic necessities and medical care, and are "facing massive risks that make them particularly vulnerable."

The new CFSs will offer psychological help, as well as a safe place for children at risk of being separated from their parents.

Haitians receive aid in St Louis.World Vision

World Vision has already distributed emergency supplies in some of the worst-affected areas, including food, blankets, water purification tablets and hygiene kits.

"As we continue to meet these immediate needs, we're also beginning to plan and think about the medium and long term scenario and how we can help," national director John Hasse said.

"Housing and food will be a big focus. The whole idea is how do we help people restore their basic necessities and being able to do as much of that as possible in a short period of time. Getting them a roof, restoring their access to clean water, and making sure they have access to sanitary conditions in their home so they have a sense of dignity is also very important."

To support the World Vision Haiti Hurricane Appeal, please click here.