Haiti: UN agency recruits young people to assist with post-quake relief
25 February 2010 – Hoping to harness the energy and enthusiasm of young people, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has recruited dozens of them to help drive the reconstruction effort in the wake of last month’s catastrophic Haiti earthquake.
One of the 66 youth volunteers, Louis Anglade, 20, was studying to be a psychologist when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the impoverished Caribbean nation on 12 January.
He hopes to return to his studies eventually because “as the country rebuilds, it’s going to need that kind of help,” he said, noting that for now, he is honing his ability to work with people in a time of extraordinary stress and vulnerability.
With young people between the ages of 15 and 24 comprising nearly one quarter of Haiti’s population, UNFPA believes they could be a powerful force as the country, already the poorest in the Western Hemisphere before the quake, seeks to recover.
The volunteers are working to improve the health of residents of makeshift shelters across the hardest-hit city and capital, Port-au-Prince, by providing supplementary food for 53,000 children and 16,000 pregnant and new mothers as part of a programme bringing together UN agencies, their partners and the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population.
Working in teams of two, the volunteers visit camps, meet with local leaders, and identify women and children in need of food supplements after the quake, which has claimed over 200,000 lives.
On the first day, they explain the programme and distribute de-worming medication for young children and vouchers for food, which is supplied the following day. Pregnant and lactating mothers and children ages 3-5 receive three-week rations of high-energy biscuits, while younger children are given plumpy nut, a ready-to-eat formula to prevent acute malnutrition of vulnerable children.
The project’s success will be evaluated before the three-week mark, said Nikette Ormélus, UNFPA’s youth programme manager in Haiti.
Mr. Anglade had the opportunity to meet Kris Allen, last year’s winner of the wildly popular United States television show “American Idol,” on his recent visit to Haiti.
“I know this is hard,” Mr. Allen told the volunteer. “I’m impressed by the job you and everyone else are doing.”
A special episode of the televised singing competition tonight will spotlight humanitarian efforts in Haiti. The more than 40 million viewers expected to tune in to the programme, a joint effort with the UN Foundation (UNF), will have the opportunity to contribute to the world body’s relief and recovery work in the country.
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