Tragedy Exploited: A Sad History Repeating Itself in Haiti

Published on Dissident Voice, by Mirah Riben, January 21, 2010.

The humanitarian Kindertransport program brought nearly 10,000 children, mostly Jewish and mostly girls, out of Nazi Germany to Britain during the Second World War. Reunion of Kindertransport, is an international organization aimed at helping the now grown displaced persons find their kin. Some have never recovered psychologically and spent the past 50 years in mental institutions … //

… And now we are faced with an earthquake with unimaginable damage in Haiti. Unicef has stated it very simply:

  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said Tuesday that international adoption should be the ‘last resort’ for children orphaned by last week’s catastrophic earthquake in Haiti.
  • “Unicef’s position has always been that whatever the humanitarian situation, family reunification must be favoured,” spokeswoman Veronique Taveau said during a press briefing in Geneva.
  • “The last resort is inter-country adoption,” she said.
  • Taveau said Unicef is working to find and identify children left without parents after last Tuesday’s devastating earthquake in the country.
  • “We find them, identify them and register them, and favour family reunification,” she said, adding that for Unicef’s purposes, family includes uncles and aunts, cousins, grandparents and more distant relatives.
  • Unicef expressed concern amid reports of efforts to speed international adoptions of Haitian children in the aftermath of the disaster, which is estimated to have left about 200,000 people dead.

International Social Services and the International Rescue Committee concur, stating “in general, international adoption should not take place in a situation of war or natural disaster, given that these events make it impossible to verify the personal and family situation of children. Any operation to adopt or to evacuate children that are victims of the earthquake to another country must be absolutely avoided, as was the case during the 2004 tsunami….”

Haitian “children are currently experiencing extreme stress so that a sudden shift to a new country and a new family can have a psychological impact that is impossible to measure. According to the Guidelines developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the evacuation of such children or their temporary placement in families abroad is also traumatic. It is considered as an added disruption to the injury already suffered by the child.”

The Hague Conference on International Law likewise states: … //

… Truly non-profit child advocating organizations all side with caution before the wholesale removal of children from their families and culture while lobbyists and marketers for those who profit from the redistribution just want to rush in and grab up the commodities.

SOS Children’s Village, The UN, ISS and IRC, The Hague have no financial gain in the best and safest outcomes for these children. They simply advocate what is best for the children and have the expertise and workers on the ground to back it up.

Unicef and other NGOs involved in child welfare know full well that nearly 90% of children worldwide in orphanages are not orphans but have one living parent, or extended family who visit and hope to regain custody. People in impoverished nations like Haiti reply in institutional care for temporary assistance and to access medical care they cannot otherwise afford.

Children are a highly sough commodity in a multibillion dollar industry in which demand creates supply. Poverty is always exploited, let’s not add this exploitation to people who have already suffered so very much.

There are many organizations accepting donation aid the children of Haiti for all who feel compelled to help without risking being exploitative. (full text).

(Mirah Riben is an activist/author/lecturer. Read other articles by Mirah, or visit Mirah’s website).

More articles about Haiti:

Haitian homeless to be relocated out of capital, 2010-01-22;

Chinese peacekeepers in Haiti, 2010-01-22;

Haitians flee homeland by boat as in movie 2012, 2010-01-21;

Haiti port opening raises hopes for quake victims, 22 January 2010.

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