lunes, 22 de febrero de 2010

The tragedy of Haiti's children

Even before the earthquake, there were 44 orphanages in the country, but after the disaster the number has increased. We visited the two homes where parents Chileans have adopted children. Both places-without light, water, and energy-is survived by a miracle.

By Carlos Saldivia, from Port au Prince
An hour and a half from downtown Port-au-Prince is what remains of the Samaritan House, better known as the Home of Madame Paul. On the way, it seems that the earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12 had been only yesterday: vacation on the floor and others by falling, corpses still rotting in the streets, tents everywhere, people looking for belongings in the rubble outside, and hordes a cistern for water or food in military units.

At the end of a long dirt road with no name-known in the industry Bouquets Croix-dus, whose holes and cracks can not advance more than 40 miles per hour, is a large and dirty red gate, without sign. It is the Samaritan House, which for 90 children abandoned marks the boundary between what would be dying in the streets from hunger or thirst and survive under a makeshift tent, a glass of milk and a plate of beans and rice a day.

After the earthquake, the site is more like an Iraqi refugee camp to a hospice for children between 12 months and 15 years, as those who live here. No running water, no bathroom, no enough beds, no electricity. Nor was there before what they call "Tuesday 12". The water that reaches them brings the Joint Command of Military Engineers of Chile and Ecuador in a truck once a week. That's enough to eat them, do some cleaning and a common bathroom for a week. A group of UN civilian, who leads a Chilean who asked that his name often makes a "cow" to bring bags of rice and beans, plus gas and coal.

Entering is the cruelest of Haitian misery. An overwhelming landscape under 35 degree sun with no shade. Children take my hand in hers, I want some bottled water. Others claim out in a photograph, a hug or a pat on their bald heads or arms starving, anxious gestures of affection.

A small group not exceeding four years naked cry, run and try to drink muddy water with his hands in a nearly dry pool, located in the courtyard. In this same source is where they are given their weekly bath soap antisarna, which is clearly insufficient as a health measure. Behind the makeshift tents put series recently, the house sits home and school. Today it has become uninhabitable, because the second floor has a visible horizontal crack that runs through all the walls. "With a mirror may collapse," says Jean, a teenager of 15 years in perfect French.

"The day of the quake was getting dark, the children were screaming and jumping from side to side, fell to the ground without understanding what was happening. Outside, people shouted louder and had a horrible noise. We need a new home to continue working and a new pond, because it cracked, "said the headmistress, Madame Paul.

The "madam" is an old nun, black and smiling, 60, who installed this home 15 years ago. Much of Haiti's children adopted in Chile has come out of here. An example of this is Amelie, Vougoraux daughter Barbara, who came for her in 2007 after a long journey that ended with a happy ending.

"Before Tuesday 12 were much better, our school house was large and MINUSTAH (United Nations Mission in Haiti) periodically sending medical teams to help with many things. We even made a Christmas with the soldiers of Chile. Now we are living in tents, fortunately no child died, "says Madame Paul. Despite the help, she says she has spent years calling for a power wheelchair for transferring a pool patio two children and two others prostrated to be towed to go swimming.

The home has not been without challenge by the Chileans who have frequented. "I came to Haiti in 2007. I went to get my daughter who was two months and turned 3 in February. He was in very poor condition, with malnutrition, chronic diarrhea, and dehydrated without power. Even I thought I had nerve damage . I could not stare, nor stay awake. after feeding was encouraged and began to react, he laughed, gasped, looked as happy. All that I sent home, mainly milk, were sold to raise money for other things, "says a mother who adopted a child in this household.

The house of the Argentine

40 kilometers from here, leaving the most prosperous place in the capital, Pettion Ville, lies one of the largest hospices in Haiti, the Foundation Orphelinat Rose-Mina de Diego, better known as the House of Madame Roland. Here the situation is no better. Although poverty is less, the images are even more cruel, even though the earthquake left no significant damage in the building. A malnourished child two years sleeping on a hard wooden bench, a smaller crying incessantly with piercing cries. A group of girls tries in vain to get some water from a dispenser empty. They put their mouth to get drops.

In the same room on the second floor, a newborn is in a diaper XL for hours and sleeping on the floor as an object that barely moves. You can not assert his head and his "brothers" of 5 or 6 years will make sharp strokes to revive him. The small stares vacantly, as if unconscious, an expressionless face and, at first glance, presents severe malnutrition and dehydration. He was left abandoned on the door of the home a few days before the earthquake. In another sector is Paco. As recounted in the home, Dewey, only eight years old, was rescued from the rubble of his house. All his family died and the neighbors moved into this place where he is still totally in shock and not come off of an adult.

Madame Roland speaks fluent Spanish. She is married to a former Argentine military, Osvaldo Fernandez, whom he met in 1996 when he was stationed in this country. They married the following year and since then, they maintain the home only "to the charity of friends and $ 75 a month that gives the National Bank of Haiti" for the 74 children in their care, from infants to 20 days to teenagers of 16 years. Osvaldo done for years, lobbying local authorities that they should get some kind of aid, but to no avail, he says.

"Here we have nothing, all we need, what you imagine. We can not get more children and had to hire a guard for the night, since many people following the earthquake, come here to leave children unable to feed "says Fernandez.

Some faces of children produces chills. In the room where we get full of flies and mosquitoes, about 13 children cry incessantly, especially the passage of the loud noise of helicopters, each 15 minutes, flying at low altitude sector. On their faces there is a fear that is rarely seen in children like them. Here are ensuite and, although he passed a mop with bleach, the smell is unbearable.

From this place left for Chile on 15 January, Alejandrito 4-month-old, who was adopted by the engineer penquista Alejandro Toro and his wife. This boy was delivered in a vegetable market. Her mother was suffering from a venereal disease that is transmitted to the child's eyes. The Chilean doctor Andres Guardia, MINUSTAH, was applied to a complex regimen of antibiotics and a special diet to combat their malnutrition.

"The day of the earthquake were with Alexander in the yard when the tragedy began. The children screamed and clung to my body while jumping and everything was shaking. Alexander went upstairs to get some kids and put them next to us. When he finished, went outside and saw the horror and the dead in piles. There was no light and it was impossible to move by car or motorbike, "said the Argentine. That day, before the collapse of the telephone lines, Toro managed to call his wife, Maria Elena, "Hello, there was an earthquake, I'm with Alejandrito in arms, no nothing happened to us," he said. But after the two replicas, she could not locate it for 48 hours.

Osvaldo query if I had heard of the Chilean Andrea Loi, one of the anonymous benefactors of the home. When I inform you that died, broke into tears. "Andrea was very good to us, was to donate a small beds for girls. That day he sent a teacher to take action and I talked to her an hour or two before," he recalls.

He says that today the most pressing is an electric generator. Interestingly, the device could afford to sell one of the three cars that are inside the house. One is a BMW repair his brother on the porch.

In both homes we consult for a single and particular concerns. Is it true that the Chilean government makes it difficult to adopt Haitian? Where Madame Paul asked if why are blacks.

Bureaucracy and discomfort in Port coimasHay by how it has addressed the issue of what is called "child trafficking". This, after the arrest of 10 Americans who tried to smuggle 33 children in Haiti for the Dominican Republic border. For the civilians of MINUSTAH and the people on the street, the problem lies elsewhere. For diplomatic and legal sources, the focus of the issue is what happens to children who lost parents or whose families have abandoned them in homes to avoid feeding them. "Is it better to let them die or try to smuggle them out of the country to give them a life that in no case be worse than the horrors of Haiti?" Asks a senior diplomat in Port-au-Prince. Another international official goes further. "The Haitian immigration authorities placed a series of obstacles to get to an orphan.'s Always been like, because Haiti is not part of the Hague Convention on adoptions. But if one has all the papers and only need a passport, the same Haitian official who has put a thousand problems, $ 1200 for all facilities and delivers the corresponding stamps. My brother did well and is not the only case, "says Agapito, calling condition of anonymity.

By Carlos Saldibia, from Port au Prince.

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