September 12, 2008 17:42 ET

UNICEF Canada Launches an Emergency Appeal for Haiti

An estimated 300,000 children affected by the recent hurricanes are at risk

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 12, 2008) - UNICEF Canada is launching an emergency appeal to assist children and families affected by the devastating hurricanes in Haiti.

"Children and families in Haiti are in urgent need of clean, safe drinking water, crucial sanitation supplies to help prevent the spread of waterborne diseases, and other life-threatening illnesses," says Nigel Fisher, President & CEO of UNICEF Canada. "We are asking Canadians to give generously now and support UNICEF's humanitarian work on the ground, providing much needed relief supplies to the affected children and their families."

In the past three weeks, Haiti has been struck by hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, leaving more than 800,000 people in need of immediate assistance, an estimated 300,000 of whom are children. According to reports from the field, tens of thousands of houses have been damaged or destroyed, forcing up to 70,000 people in the city of Gonaives alone to seek refuge in temporary shelters.

UNICEF is airlifting 11.5 tons of emergency supplies to Haiti to help victims displaced by the recent hurricanes. The first shipment of 8.5 tons arrived Tuesday and three additional tons are expected to arrive in the coming days. Hygiene kits, water-purification tablets, blankets, oral rehydration salts and other items from the shipment will be distributed to victims of floods.

"UNICEF's first line of action is to provide potable water and improve sanitation to reduce the risk of diarrhea epidemics," said Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.

Poverty and environmental degradation feed each other as the poorest, desperate for fuel, strip the hillsides of trees. This increases vulnerability to flash flooding and this year's hurricane season has hit the country particularly hard, destroying safe water sources and increasing risk, sickness and disease.

Severe flooding has interrupted the water supply and caused heavy contamination of wells, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. One of UNICEF's priorities is now providing access to safe water and sanitation facilities, especially to vulnerable children. The situation, however, is further complicated by the risk of social and political unrest, in a country where a food crisis that led to violent riots in April remains unresolved.

From 19 to 23 September, Nigel Fisher, President & CEO of UNICEF Canada, will be visiting some of the worst-affected regions to see firsthand UNICEF's response and assess the immediate needs of children and their families. Upon his return, he will provide Canadians with an update on UNICEF's progress on the ground and upcoming activities planned to help Haitians cope with the aftermath of this disaster. Mr. Fisher will be available for interviews before, during and after his mission to Haiti.

"UNICEF has been working for children in this deeply impoverished country for many years. But right now we are deeply concerned about the children and families in Haiti who have been severely impacted by four hurricanes in a row," says Fisher.

"UNICEF has responded immediately to assist them in the wake of these major storms. We are now asking all Canadians to support our crucial emergency relief efforts and help Haitian children and their families cope with these extremely difficult living conditions."


To support UNICEF's humanitarian operations in Haiti, please visit www.unicef.ca or call 1-877-955-3111. UNICEF Canada raises funds for emergencies based on country needs. Should the total contributions exceed the funding needs for a certain emergency, the funds received will be reallocated to other UNICEF emergency programmes where the need is greatest.


UNICEF is the world's leader for children, working in 156 countries and territories to save, protect and enhance the lives of girls and boys. UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, promotes quality basic education, protects children from violence, exploitation and AIDS, and is the world's largest provider of vaccines for developing nations. A global leader in emergencies with six decades of on-the-ground experience, UNICEF saves and rebuilds children's lives in natural disasters and conflict. UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations, schools, associations and governments.

Contact Information

  • UNICEF Canada
    Robert B. Lussier
    Acting Director, Communications
    (416) 482-4444 ext. 8830 or Cell: (647) 282-7546
    Email: rlussier@unicef.ca
    Website: www.unicef.ca