Haiti’s orphaned children

Children at a Caritas orphanage outside of Port-au-Prince await their food supplies by Caritas member CRS. Photo: Conor O'Loughlin/CARITAS

By Conor O’Loughlin, Communications Officer for Trocaire, in Port-au.Prince

East of Port-au-Prince, things are calmer than in the city. The massive overcrowding of the capital is much less on show here and even the destruction seems lesser. But then, there are fewer houses here.

It is a peaceful place; smallholdings with banana plants and chickens stand on the roadside. But the aftermath of January 12 lingers here, too. Most houses have sustained damage of some variety; every third or fourth has been completely demolished.

A small orphanage sits among the scrub at end of a stony lane, found only by following the lead of a rusty, hand-painted sign directing us to the ‘orphelinat‘.

When the earthquake struck, their headmistress tells us, all of the children were in an upstairs room of their house watching a documentary “about how children live in France”. Then the building started to shake.

“The bigger children grabbed the smaller children and ran down the stairs”, she told us.

Seconds later, the whole building collapsed. Looking at it now, buckled and angry looking in the midday sun, it is a miracle nobody was hurt. The two floors of the school building, across a small yard now littered with debris and shards of their former life, is also completely fell. Inside the rubble there can be seen a smashed blackboard, the last day’s lesson still lingering, the broken desks strewn drunkenly amid the rubble.

Caritas has worked with this orphanage for some time, providing the nuns with the food necessary to feed 55 children. But since the earthquake, more children have come. In fact, the number of children at the orphelinat is now 96.

“Many children have come,” we are told by their carer. “People from all around have brought us children that they have found. We don’t know where they have come from or where their parents are.”

Nachania Merisma, who lives at a Caritas-supported orphanage outside of Port-au-Prince, awaits a distribution of food from Caritas member CRS. Photo: Conor O'Loughlin/CARITAS

Some, like Nachania Merisma, a quiet 11 year old girl, sat playing with her toy xylophone as the Caritas food was brought out. Others still had the pain of the past two weeks etched on their faces.

This is not the biggest distribution of food happening in Haiti this week, but personal needs cannot be measure in terms of the size of a population. These children lost everything for the second time when the earthquake struck.

Caritas is there to see that, this time at least, life can go on.

To date, Caritas partners in Haiti have provided food to 108,678 people, and non-food relief items to 21,736 people.

We have supported St Francois de Sales hospital with medical materials and supplies, volunteer doctors and nurses, food, water and other support to expand emergency medical care. We established three functioning operating rooms – conducting an average of 12 severe surgical cases per day – as well as a laboratory, X-Ray room and blood bank at the same hospital. A public health campaign has also been launch, carried out through megaphone, leaflets and radio.

1 Comment

Filed under Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Haiti, Haiti, Latin America

One response to “Haiti’s orphaned children

  1. It is a simple fact that all children must have hope.

    Life is about more than simply surviving…it is also about having hope. It’s about facing the future without fear. It’s about having a sense of well-being for yourself. It is a feeling that life can get better.

    When there is no hope, despair can become overwhelming leaving a child unable to cope with the constant suffering. Their sense of being powerless is crippling. This is especially true for orphans who have lived through a disaster. They not only suffer from the physical manifestations of the tragedy they also have to deal with the mental and emotional aspects of being alone. The children of Haiti have to relentlessly cope with the fact that death is constantly lurking because another earthquake could strike at any moment.

    For children living in a devastated area, hope comes in many forms. It can be lifesaving medicines and vaccines. It can be enough daily calories to provide basic nutrition. It can be safe water for drinking. It can be shelter to protect against the elements. And most importantly, it can come from knowing that someone cares about them.

    Hope is something every person in the world needs and deserves, but it is especially important for children. And since there are so many in Haiti who can’t create hope for themselves, we have an obligation to help provide it for them.

    We can deliver hope to the children of Haiti now. We have the resources and means to do it. We don’t have to wait. We just have to care.

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