Close your eyes and imagine that your mom is dead…then your dad. Moments later the rest of your family dies; your sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmother and grandfather. In a blink of an eye complete generations are lost forever.
Can you feel the pain as the death angel works its way through your entire family?
Keep your eyes closed.
At the same time, as your family is being extinguished, you realize that you are buried under concrete, drywall, furniture, soot and bricks. You are hurt, hungry and confused. As blood trickles down your leg from the punctures caused by the collapse of the structure you were standing in or sleeping in, you begin to accept your fate.
Now open your eyes and realize that you are a 7-year-old Haitian girl.
The horrific scene described above took place hundreds of thousands of times on January 12th 2010. Countless Haitian children opened their eyes to a fate that was more vivid, raw and scary than any of us could ever imagine.
These children are now lost. They are scattered all over Port-au-Prince’s makeshift camps for the homeless. They have nobody to care for them. They have no food, protection or comfort. These innocent angels now face the harsh realities of life on their own. Whether dealing with issues of hunger and loneliness or avoiding child predators, these young babies must now navigate the perils of everyday life by themselves.
U.N. experts estimate there may be 1 million youngsters who lost at least one parent on that fateful day. Many lost both parents and are now separated from their families. Consider the fact that the earthquake struck during school hours, therefore thousands of children were already separated from their parents and simply have not found them yet. The situation in Haiti is so dire that some children are being released from hospitals with no one to care for them because there aren’t enough beds to match the need. These kids are now wondering the streets, searching for food, shelter and protection from the elements.
They are so young…so vulnerable…so innocent.
In the aftermath of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, the growing number of missing and displaced children has grown into one of the biggest and most complicated problems facing the island. Without an efficiently functioning government or available infrastructure, these kids have a minimal chance of survival. This reality led a small group of missionaries from Idaho to Haiti. These missionaries decided on their own to take displaced Haitian kids into the Dominican Republic. The group was stopped by police and are now being held. As of press time the ten missionaries have been charged with child kidnapping and criminal association. The children were taken to the Austrian-run SOS Children’s Village in Port-au-Prince.
Although we do not know the true intentions of the missionaries from Idaho; their dilemma sheds light on a growing concern. With so many kids left alone since the earthquake, people with good or bad intentions have complete access to them. The harsh reality is that the international community was not prepared to deal with this issue in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Consider the plight of three Haitian girls: Love is four years old; Rolanda is eleven and Charlize is fourteen. Each are still missing as of press time. They were housed at the Bresma Orphanage in Port-Au-Prince. Since the quake, all communications with that institution had been disrupted. Nobody knows where these three girls are. Now multiply this scenario by the tens of thousands.
UNICEF, the U.N.’s child-advocacy arm, as well as groups like Save the Children and the Red Cross, are squarely focused on registering at-risk kids and setting up shelters exclusively for them. One UNICEF official who is monitoring reports of child trafficking said that “traffickers fish in pools of vulnerability, and we’ve rarely if ever seen one like this.” There are multiple reports of men in pickup trucks grabbing orphaned children to use them as restaveks or victims of sexual trafficking.
Time Magazine reported that in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Petite Place Cazeau, a crowd of quake survivors living in tents witnessed a man in a pickup truck trying to kidnap young girls. The man had been trying for several days before neighborhood survivors were finally motivated to stop him. They surrounded his pickup truck and beat up the driver. Bleeding from his nose, mouth and scalp, he managed to get back in his truck and flee the area.
Although we applaud the efforts of the makeshift neighborhood watch, it is simply not enough. The problem remains daunting, and is worsened by the fact that there are so many displaced kids and this is just one part of the overall recovery challenge.
Today the lost children of Haiti need our help more than ever. So open your eyes…and keep them open. Do not turn away from them now and risk an entire generation of beautiful Haitian children being lost forever.
Source: Gainesville Television Network, UNICEF, Time
For more info: Check out one of these great resources to find out more information on how to help Haitian Children:
1. National Council for Adoption
2. Joint Council on International Children’s Services
3. Archdiocese of Miami
4. U.S. Department of State