Comhlamh and its Orphanage Working Group were shocked and extremely saddened at the deaths of 15 children killed in a fire at an unlicensed orphanage in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Living conditions at the orphanage, operated by a US based Christian Group, were described as ‘truly, truly neglected’.
The majority of orphanages in the country are privately run and unregulated resulting in inadequate welfare and safeguarding standards for the estimated 30,000 Haitian children in institutional care. 80% of these children have at least one living parent and so are not in fact ‘orphans’ but have placed there by their parents in the hope of food, education and healthcare. Some have been actively recruited by traffickers. Many are forced to live in appalling conditions, and subjected to maltreatment and abuse. Research records specific accounts of children being subjected to sexual abuse, including by orphanage owners and by foreign nationals.
There is now a growing global movement against orphanages. International bodies and national governments are working to support children to return home to live with their families, in their communities or in alternative care settings such as foster care, which can truly provide for their welfare and happiness.
However too often these efforts are being thwarted by continued support for orphanages, including through orphanage volunteering and donations.
The Washington Post reports:
“Babies and toddlers were among the dead along with children around the ages of 10 or 11, a child-care worker from the facility told the Associated Press. At least two were immediately killed in the blaze and at least 13 others died at the hospital due to smoke inhalation, said Maria Luisa Fornara, a representative from UNICEF Haiti. About another 60 children made it out of the home, she said, noting the number of children in the facility when the fire sparked is still under investigation. Authorities are working to find homes for the survivors.“
The New York Times reports
Rose-Marie Louis, a child-care worker at the home, told The Associated Press that the fire began around 9 p.m. Thursday and firefighters took about 90 minutes to arrive. The orphanage had been using candles for light due to problems with its generator and inverter, she said.
About half of those who died were babies or toddlers and the others were roughly 10 or 11 years old, Louis said.
Late Friday afternoon, police raided another home also run by the Church of Bible Understanding and took away several dozen children in a bus over protests from employees….
The Church of Bible Understanding lost accreditation for its homes after a series of inspections beginning in November 2012. Haitian inspectors faulted the group for overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and not having enough adequately trained staff.
Members of the religious group were selling expensive vintage building fixtures like banisters and chandeliers at high-end stores in New York and Los Angeles and using a portion of the profits to fund the homes.
The Associated Press made an unannounced visit to the group’s two homes, holding a total of 120 kids, in 2013 and found bunk beds with faded and worn mattresses crowded into dirty rooms. Sour air wafted through the bathrooms and stairwells. Rooms were dark and spartan, lacking comforts or decoration.
The Church of Bible Understanding operates two homes for nearly 200 children in Haiti as part of a “Christian training program,” according to its most recent nonprofit organization filing. It has operated in the country since 1977. It identifies the homes as orphanages but it is common in Haiti for impoverished parents to place children in residential care centers, where they receive lodging and widely varying education for several years but are not technically orphans.
There is now a growing global movement against orphanages. International bodies and national governments are working to support children to return home to live with their families, in their communities or in alternative care settings such as foster care, which can truly provide for their welfare and happiness. However too often these efforts are being thwarted by continued support for orphanages, including through orphanage volunteering and donations.