Leo Messi, renowned FC Barcelona and Argentina national team soccer player, completed his first field visit for UNICEF last month to highlight the milestones and challenges children in Haiti face six months after the earthquake.
The one-day visit took Messi to Carrefour Aviation, a camp of 50,000 Haitians who lost their homes during the 12 January quake now live in tents.
Messi also visited the Argentinean contingent of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, and heard first-hand about the peacekeepers’ work running a field hospital after the earthquake. He then joined UNICEF staff at their office to hear about their programs to assist the Haitian government and its people after the disaster that claimed 220,000 lives and left the capital in ruins.
Messi’s relatively short career has taken him to the summit of world football. He was named the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009, a year in which he also won the Golden Ball award for the best European footballer of the year. There are few places in the world today where children are as vulnerable as they are in Haiti. Despite some progress, over 1.2 million children in the country are exposed to exploitation and abuse; 800,000 live in tents at sites which lack adequate sanitation and where access to safe water, education and health facilities are limited.
UNICEF and the larger humanitarian community are working tirelessly alongside the Haitian government to provide ongoing support to these children and to ensure that Haiti recovers and becomes a country where all children grow up with access to the full range of services they need to survive, thrive and become positive agents of change in the development of their country.