Many children left nameless, alone
Associated Press
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti --- The children with no names lay mute in a corner of the General Hospital grounds Tuesday, three among thousands of boys and girls set adrift in the wake of Haiti's earthquake.

"Hi, Joe, how are you?" the American doctor tried, using a pet name the staff had given a boy of about 11.

There was no response.

"Joe," "Baby Sebastian" and the girl who didn't have a nickname hadn't spoken or cried since they were brought in over the previous 48 hours -- by neighbors, passers-by, no one knows who. "Sebastian," only a week old, was said to have been taken from the arms of his dead mother.

They're lucky: Haitian-born Dr. Wisdom Price and the staff were treating them for infections and other ailments. Hundreds of thousands of hungry and thirsty children are scattered among Port-au-Prince's squatter camps of survivors, without protection against disease or child predators.

"There's an estimated 1 million unaccompanied or orphaned children or children who lost one parent," said Kate Conradt, a spokeswoman for the aid group Save the Children. "They are extremely vulnerable."

The U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, has established a special tent camp for girls and boys who, one way or another, were separated from their parents in the Jan. 12 quake, and who are in danger of falling prey to child traffickers and other abusers. The Connecticut-based Save the Children has set up "Child Spaces" in 13 makeshift settlements. The Red Cross and others, meanwhile, are working to reunite families.

The post-quake needs of Haiti's children were nonetheless outrunning the available help. Some youngsters were even being released from hospitals with no one to care for them -- there just aren't enough beds for them.

"Health workers are being advised to monitor and send separated/unaccompanied children to child-friendly spaces," the U.N. humanitarian office said in its latest situation report.

The plight of the young is especially poignant even in a country where the U.N. estimates 3 million out of a population of 9 million need international assistance in the quake's aftermath.

"We still have a huge distance to go," said John Holmes, the U.N. relief coordinator.

That was evident in Port-au-Prince's streets, alleys and crumbled doorways, where handwritten messages begged for help. In the Juvenat neighborhood, a group of 50 families scrawled in green on a white sheet hung from a doorway: "We need food assistance, water and medicine."

About 800 to 1,000 aid flights were still awaiting permission to land, a seven-day backlog, U.N. and European officials reported Tuesday. On top of that, "trucks are needed," U.N. spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva.

Holmes estimated that 2 million people need food, but only 500,000 have received some.

The medical picture has improved, but remains critical. World Health Organization spokesman Paul Garwood said more medical staff were still needed, especially rehabilitation specialists, to help with postoperative recovery of 200,000 people who have had amputations or other surgery.

Of the nameless, speechless trio, Price was treating young Joe for an infection oozing from both eyes. The 7-pound Baby Sebastian had diarrhea. The unnamed girl, about 10, lay listlessly and stared upward. She had an eye infection but was generally fine and was to be picked up by the staff of an orphanage Tuesday or Wednesday, Price said.

"Maybe some of these parents are not even looking because their house was destroyed and they might think the kid was inside," Price said.


WASHINGTON --- Americans escaping devastation in Haiti could get emergency aid from the federal government under legislation that cleared Congress on Tuesday.

The measure increases to $25 million this year a Health and Human Services fund that helps Americans returning from Haiti with cash, travel expenses, medical care, lodging and food.

The Senate approved the measure on a voice vote late Monday and the House followed suit Tuesday, sending it to President Obama.

Those receiving aid are obligated to eventually reimburse the government, although repayment may be waived in certain hardship cases.

The State Department says about 45,000 U.S. citizens were living in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. Of those, more than 14,000 have returned home.

From the Wednesday, January 27, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle


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