Children living on the streets in Les Cayes in western Haiti after the weekend’s devastating earthquake are in dire need of food, water and shelter despite aid efforts in the hard-to-reach area, Save the Children warned.

Les Cayes is one of the areas that was hardest hit by the 7.2 strong earthquake on Saturday, which killed at least 1,400 people and destroyed or damaged more than 80,000 houses. Tropical storm Grace passed over the area late Monday, causing little damage but with heavy winds and rains battering people living in the open.

Even before the earthquake, more than 1.1 million people in Haiti were estimated to be one step away from famine, including hundreds of thousands of children. In the area of Les Cayes, an estimated 160,000 people were already struggling to get enough food every day, with almost 40,000 people living on the verge of famine.

Field Manager Carl-Henry Petit-Frère of Save the Children, who has been working in the hardest hit area over the past days, said:
“I see children crying on the street, people asking us for food, but we are low on food ourselves as well. The organisations that are here are doing what they can, but we need more supplies. Food, clean water and shelter are needed most, and we need them fast.

“People are living on the street, unprotected from the wind and the rain. Children were warned not to go into their houses as they might collapse.

“Parents have lost their children, or children have lost their parents. Luckily, we live in a community where children who are on their own are taken in by family members or by other families in the community, but the scenes are heart-breaking.

“Losing your parents, your house, this obviously has a big impact on children. Besides the basic needs, we need urgent psychosocial support for children who have been impacted by the earthquake, especially those who are very young as they might not fully understand what’s going on. We need to help them to recover from their experiences, as these can have a long-lasting impact.”

Save the Children has distributed items such as tarpaulins, blankets, jerry cans and baby kits to help families cope with the first impacts of the earthquake.

The organisation is scaling up its response, and is aiming to provide cash to the hardest hit families, child protection, and education spaces for children, health and nutrition support, and psychosocial support through child friendly spaces. In these spaces, children can play with other children and recover from their experiences under the supervision of trained staff, while their family can make a start with rebuilding their lives.