Hurricane Irma: Thousands of Haitians still in shelters
World Vision ambassador Jerome Flynn says he is ‘changed forever’ after hearing heart-rending stories from war-scarred children in South Sudan.
Jerome met traumatised children last month on a fact-finding trip organised by international charity World Vision. South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, gaining independence in 2011. The East African country has been convulsed by a five-year long civil war which has killed at least 400,000 people. Over 19,000 children have been conscripted into various armed groups.
“Children told me about unimaginable horrors they had seen and experienced,” Jerome says. “Some children were kidnapped by armed groups and forced to fight and kill and watch other children get killed for not keeping up. Others fled torched homes and villages and sought refuge in camps for displaced people, with little food and no education. Many lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and were forced to make choices no child should have to make, just to survive.
"I met families torn apart because of the conflict and talked to parents who had sons and daughters snatched from them,” he continued. At times I found their stories of what they had to endure almost too painful to bear.
“Yet I also saw hope in a country ripped apart by war. Dedicated World Vision aid workers are helping desperate families stitch their lives together amid the chaos. I was blown away by the resilience of the children, humbled by their spirit, and inspired by their determination to find happiness.
“I saw how war costs children their innocence but does not always destroy their childhoods. The bravery of the children I met will stay with me forever.”
Full-blown conflict is likely to flare up again in South Sudan unless a national army of government and rebel forces is formed by May 12. More children and young people could then be forced into the bush to take up arms or flee the fighting.
Jerome says: “South Sudan’s latest peace deal is on a short fuse and the situation is desperate. Help is needed urgently to protect children from further violence. Sadly, there are thousands of children across the world who need support right now. Please give generously to help them.”
Jerome’s trip forms part of World Vision’s Made for More appeal for funds to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.
Over 3,000 people in Haiti are still in shelters according to World Vision emergency response teams.
Thousands fled to 14 shelters across the north-east of the country as Irma made its way through the Caribbean.
Anio Petit-Frere, a farmer from Cap Haitien, told World Vision staff, “The high winds began during the night while we were sleeping. It destroyed much of our banana crop. I don’t know how I will feed my four children.”
There were a lot of winds and rains and we couldn’t come out of the house. Trees fell and some roofs were torn away. I was really afraid.
- Guiveline, 11
Initial reports from World Vision staff assessing the damage reveal that flooding has destroyed more than 50% of the millet crops in the central department region.
World Vision Haiti National director, Flore-Marie V. Laurent, said, “Many families are afraid of sudden water surges. Hurricane Irma has pushed already vulnerable communities into an even more insecure existence.
“We will work closely with the Haitian authorities to support as many people as possible.”