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Children queuing for food at St. Marie Credits: Magnier/Caritas

Children queuing for food at St. Marie
Credits: Magnier/Caritas

The risks to children following Haiti’s earthquake include not only trafficking but also hunger. Up to 24 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition in Haiti. In poorer areas, this figure is even greater.

One of Caritas’ priorities in the earthquake’s aftermath has been to supply regular food to the survivors. So far, Caritas has provided 600,000 people with food.

The Sainte Marie community in Port-au-Prince is one of the places Caritas has been giving out food to children. Today they are waiting for a hot meal consisting of rice, beans and meat.

“Until two weeks ago, I didn’t used to eat regular meals,” says Géraldine, 14. “Now the food distributions have started in the community, my parents are reassured because they know I’ll eat at least once a day.”

Over 5000 people have taken refuge in the Sainte Marie community in search of food and shelter. In collaboration with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), Caritas is organising hot meals every day for the 800 children in the settlement.

Regular meals are essential for children to help them grow and to ensure they don’t fall ill. With no houses, very little money and work, many parents have found it hard to feed their children following the earthquake.

“For our parents, it is very hard to get by,” say twin sisters Sandra and Samantha, 14. “Sometimes they eat, sometimes they don’t. They can’t work so they don’t have any money. They would never take our meals away from us though!”

Children who don’t get enough vitamins and minerals from eating properly can experience poor growth and have trouble concentrating at school. In the long-term children who are under-nourished have an impact on the economic development of the country where they live.

Caritas hopes that the food it provides will stop more and more children in Haiti falling into malnutrition and suffering the life-long consequences of this disease. The meals should shore-up children’s nutrition until other sources of food offering a greater variety of nutrients can be found by their parents.

“I like the food, I like it when it is hot,” says Samantha, 5. “But I want the menu to change!”