In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Am I not Human: Children and Armed Conflict in Haiti

On the 27th day of every month, a group of bloggers unite in an online campaign to share information about human rights abuses across the globe. This month, Cry Haiti focuses on the plight of Haitian children affected by armed conflict.

In December 2006, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative to the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, expressed concern about an escalation of violence targeting children in Haiti.

Official data is sparse, therefore, it is acknowledged that official reports of gun violence and sexual assault perpetrated against children in the slums in and around the Port-au-Prince point to a much more wide-spread problem.

There are reports of children being abducted by armed groups. Some of these children are held for ransom, others are trafficked within the country or across the border to the Dominican Republic. The children are sold on as unpaid domestic and agricultural labourers or as sex workers. The proceeds of their sale are used to fund the illegal trade in drugs and weapons.
In a country overwhelmed by civil unrest, where the police and courts function poorly and, at times, in a corrupt manner, organised crime thrives. Among their ranks are children. Some have joined to seek revenge against groups who have killed, injured or assaulted relatives. Others join to seek food or protection, but most are recruited by force.

Follow this link to see a video full-length video about Haiti's child soldiers. This is the modern face of conflict. This is a nation plagued by poverty, hunger and a crumbling infrastructure. Organised crime stands in the way of Haiti's development and, in this way, compromises children's rights: right to life, to food, health care and survival, right to be raised in their family, to be educated, nurtured and protected.

Children who have lost all of this, then give up or forfeit the right to be exempt from direct participation in armed conflict and become subject to physical and sexual abuse and exploitation. Every right enshrined by the UN convention on the rights of the child is violated, and despite the efforts of the UN stabilisation mission and the Haitian judicial system, these violations occur with relative impunity.

All children impacted by Haiti's culture of violence, even those who actively participate are victims. UNICEF and YĆ©le Haiti are among a handful of organisations that provide counselling and rehabilitation services to the survivors.

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