Haiti government, UNICEF begin orphanage assessment

By Alexander Manda
0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, January 30, 2010
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Teams are fanning out across the capital to build a picture of the state of its orphanages and their ability to cope in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

For the past week, seven teams from UNICEF and the Haitian government's Social Welfare Institute are visiting at least four orphanages, both registered and informal, a day to assess their needs. Xinhua accompanied one of the teams on Friday.

UNICEF assessment officer Mayi Pierre and her government counterpart Jude Sermon visited two orphanages on Friday morning.

Their first stop, the New Life Foyer in the comparatively upscale neighborhood of Petionville, cares for small children until they can be adopted internationally. The team found 12 children that were receiving regular food and water in a safe atmosphere and a building that held firm through the quake.

Officers described the facility as the best they had seen so far, but this didn't mean it was untouched by the disaster, which has killed at least 170,000 people in the Caribbean nation and left 1.5 million homeless.

"The director was so traumatized she is not at work, and many children are afraid to sleep inside the building," creche secretary Yadeley Julien told Xinhua. The institution needs food, water and milk, but the children appear well cared for.

Several of its charges have been adopted by overseas families and left since the quake, but Julien said this was a simple acceleration of normal procedure. Most children at the Foyer, which has been in operation since 1992, are adopted overseas and the adoption fees are used to pay running costs. Julien said that some early adoptees had returned several times to Haiti as adolescents and adults, with one young woman adopted in Switzerland returning to adopt children herself.

At their second stop, an orphanage run by the Only A Servant Mission in the same neighborhood, officers found a more precarious situation: an orphanage that had been forced into a large private home and whose numbers had swollen to 100 from 48 after the quake.

"New people are coming all the time," said John Laninger, a Mission worker from San Antonio in the U.S. state of Texas. Laninger attended to the assessment officers in the absence of the orphanage director, who was driving doctors to the airport for their flight home after helping in the relief effort.

Adults as well as children had moved into the orphanage, which is on bedrock in the hills at the edge of Port-au-Prince and is more stable as a result. An unexpected new arrival is Andia, three days old when Xinhua visited. Andia was born to Danie and Andi Marcelin in a tent on the grounds of the improvised orphanage.

Mission worker Mike Kennedy warned that the orphanage's water was running low and that there were only 20 mattresses for all the children who wanted to sleep outside, frightened of being indoors after the deadly quake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale and the aftershock that measured 6.1 that hit 10 days later.

The workers told Xinhua that some children appeared healthy and well fed, while some of the newcomers were suffering diseases common in rough conditions, including skin infections and malnutrition.

"Some of these children are there because their families do not have the resources to care for them," said Pierre. "They are sent to donors, churches or non-government organizations."

The visit comes during a week when Haiti ordered a halt to overseas adoption for children whose paperwork was not under way before the quake. The government fears that families separated in the quake might end up apart permanently if the policy continues.

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