Quake Still Endangering Haiti Children, Warn Bishops

Note Evidence of Trafficking; Decry Plight of Orphans

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WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- U.S. bishops are calling for better efforts to help Haiti recover from the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the country. The prelates say the plight of Haitian children is particularly worrying.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, head of the U.S. bishops Haiti Advisory Group, presented a 16-page report Monday on the long-term challenges and needed solutions for Haiti.

“Nearly nine months after the earthquake, 1.3 million persons remain homeless, living in tent camps, and clean-up and reconstruction efforts proceed at a very slow pace,» he lamented. «Despite the outpouring of support from the international community in the aftermath of the disaster, attention to the long-term recovery of Haiti has begun to lag.»

The U.S. bishops’ delegation was particularly concerned about Haiti’s children. The delegation noted there is no «comprehensive approach» to prevent families from being separated, smuggling and trafficking across the border. 

They reported that thousands of Haitian children are living in orphanages, but it is estimated that as many as 60% of these children are not actually orphans. Rather, they are left at the centers by their parent(s) who cannot care for them.

Furthermore, the prelates warned, children are vulnerable to being sent to work for another family with the idea that they will be cared for and perhaps even educated. Instead, the child is often submitted to slave-like conditions.

«There also is evidence that Haitian children are being trafficked into the Dominican Republic to work in agriculture, beg on the streets, or perform domestic work, yet little is being done to apprehend and prosecute traffickers,» a statement from the bishops cautioned.

The prelates also denounced U.S. immigration policy, saying the United States and other nations are «beginning to pull back the welcome mat for Haitians displaced because of the earthquake.»

«Haitian families are divided and policies pursued both by Haiti and surrounding nations, including the United States, have not been designed to reunite them,» they added.

The prelates recommended international assistance to provide reconstruction funds. They called for tracing efforts for orphans, and said that «best interest determinations for Haitian orphans in Haiti and the Dominican Republic should be introduced.»

The prelates’ delegation beseeched the international community to remember Haiti. 

“The United States and the international community must re-focus their attention on Haiti,» Archbishop Wenski said, «to help ensure that the Haitian people maintain hope and that the situation in Haiti does not deteriorate.»

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On the Net:

Bishops’ full report: www.usccb.org/mrs/USCCB_MRS_10_trip_report.pdf

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