December 9 2010

Haiti: SOS Children's Villages' schools close as riots erupt

09/12/2010 - Violent riots in the streets of various cities in Haiti following the publication of presidential election results are said to be worse than in previous years. For security reasons, SOS Children's Villages has temporarily closed its schools in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien. One teenage girl who lives in the SOS youth house in Cap Haitien was lightly injured in the violent clashes.

Photo: Christian Martinelli
As riots erupt all over Haiti, public life has come to a standstill - Photo: Christian Martinelli

Immediately after the results of the presidential elections were published in the evening hours of 7 December, rumours about impending demonstrations and riots started making the rounds. The next day, most public life came to a standstill - there was no public transportation, airports closed. SOS Children's Villages' co-workers reported that protesters had started fires and set up barricades. The violent clashes have already claimed several lives.

On 8 December, the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien also remained closed. Students, teachers and co-workers were not able to come to the schools due to protests in the streets. In order to provide a secure environment it is necessary to decide day by day whether or not to open the SOS projects. "It is important that everyone stays inside", said Dionisio Pereira, the director of SOS Children's Villages Haiti. "People already know when those security measures need to be taken, on days like today everyone stays at home. We are staying inside the premises of the SOS Children's Village Santo as well, continually screening media reports on the situation from our temporary offices here".

Arrol Francois, the director of the SOS Children's Village in the northern city of Cap Haitien, reported that a girl was wounded in violent protests in the streets. The teenager, who lives in an SOS youth community, was trying to go to school in the morning hours of 8 December when she and her colleagues happened upon an ongoing riot and she was hurt by someone throwing glass bottles. The girl received immediate medical attention, her injuries are not severe.

As riots take place all over the country, SOS Children's Villages is constantly monitoring the situation to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children in our care. Depending on developments over the next days, a decision will be taken on when to reopen schools and offices.