Published Date: 27 January 2010
By Ben Fox and Vivian Sequera in Port-Au-Prince
A TEENAGER was today pulled out of rubble of the College St Gerard in Port-au-Prince 15 days after an earthquake devastated Haiti. The last previous survivor was rescued on Saturday, when a man was pulled from the ruins of a hotel grocery store.
Darlene Etienne, 17, was suffering from severe dehydration and had a leg injury when French rescuers freed her. A cousin who had joined in the rescue effort said: “We thought she was dead.”
Aid agencies last night said thousands of orphans were among those being looked after in the poverty-stricken country now facing starvation.
Many of the countless thousands of children scattered among Port-au-Prince’s makeshift camps of homeless have nobody to care for them, aid workers say, leaving them without protection against disease, child predators and other risks.
“They are extremely vulnerable,” said Kate Conradt, a spokeswoman for Save the Children. She added that United Nations experts say there may be a million youngsters who lost at least one parent in the 12 January quake, or are separated from their families.
Some young Haitians are even being released from hospitals with no-one to care for them because there are not enough beds for them. “Health workers are being advised to monitor and send separated/unaccompanied children to child-friendly spaces,” the UN humanitarian office said in its latest situation report.
The UN children’s agency, Unicef, along with Save the Children and the Red Cross, has begun registering at-risk children and has identified three interim care centres at orphanages where they can be sheltered temporarily, said Bo Viktor Nylund, a Unicef adviser for child protection.
Save the Children, meanwhile, has set up “child spaces” in 13 makeshift settlements. In addition, the three agencies are working to reunite families, by creating a database of separated family members.
“This is just the beginning of the exercise,” Mr Nylund said. “Considering the number of people who died, we are expecting children in the thousands who have lost their parents.”
The plight of the young is especially poignant, even in a country where the UN estimates one-third of the nine million people need international assistance.
At Port-au-Prince General Hospital, Haitian-born pediatrician Winston Price, a volunteer from New York, was caring for 80 children in four tents in the hospital grounds. A handful had been brought in with no clues as to the whereabouts of their families.
“Maybe some of these parents are not even looking because their house was destroyed and they might think the kid was inside,” he said. “But maybe the kid was pulled out, so they are missing each other.”
Children left alone are everywhere. At one of the 13 Save the Children sites, about 25 children have no adult relatives taking care of them, said Ms Conradt, who added the group had helped 6,000 children since the quake.
The child spaces are cordoned-off areas where children can play under supervision, “giving them a chance to return to normalcy as much as they can”, she said.
Such areas also protect children against abduction by traffickers, a chronic problem in pre-quake Haiti, said Deb Barry, an emergency protection adviser with Save the Children.
She said her organization was working to track down every rumor it heard about threats to stranded children, “but we haven’t been able to verify those thus far”.