Haiti Earthquake Devastates Lives of Orphans, Unwanted Children

Number of orphans sure to increase with limited resources to care for them.

ByABC News
January 13, 2010, 1:47 PM

Jan. 14, 2010— -- When the shaking started, they ran -- 20 little girls, all orphans, out of the only home they knew.

When the walls of their suburban Port-au-Prince orphanage came crashing down, their caregivers counted their blessings that no one had died. But then their attention turned to the harsh reality faced by the dozens of owners of the orphanages that dot Haiti's capital -- finding food and shelter for the poorest of the poor, the children nobody wanted.

They also fear that the number of children they will need to care for will increase dramatically.

"We are very scared for the orphans out there," Jon Clark, international director to Haiti for CSI Ministries, told ABCNews.com today. "People are bad off to begin with. This is just going to make things worse."

Port-au-Prince was home to a considerable orphan population before the earthquake hit Tuesday, turning Haiti's capital into a wasteland. While some children had been placed in orphanages because their parents had died, many others are brought to orphanages by their families because disease or poverty left them unable to care for their children.

Now, orphanage owners and missionaries say the number of unwanted children is sure to skyrocket as thousands of Haitian parents come to grips with being stripped of the few resources they had.

Kris Baker, president of Answered Prayers, a Washington state aid group that provides funding and missionaries for the more than 150 children at Brebis de Saint-Michel de L'Attalaye, or BRESMA oprhanage, said devastation from the earthquake "will force parents to give up children just to keep them alive."

"You think, 'You can say no, take care of the kids you have,'" she said. "But try doing that."

In addition to worrying about the orphans, Baker is also waiting on word about the three children she was slated to adopt in the coming weeks. The children -- siblings of her 11-year-old daughter adopted from Haiti five years ago -- were living off site from the orphanage when the earthquake hit.

"We're very concerned," she said, adding that they've been trying to keep their daughter from watching the news. "It will just devastate her."

In 2007, UNICEF estimated there were 380,000 orphans in Haiti, which has a population of just over 9 million, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The children at the H.O.P.E. Center, run by CSI Ministries, could be considered among the lucky. Clark, based in the U.S., said he has made contact with Toby Banks, director of the medical clinic adjacent to the orphanage, located in Croix Des Bouquets, about 4 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.

The 20 girls they care for, mostly between the ages of 3 and 5, came out of the disaster with "a few minor cuts, bumps and bruises."

"But structurally, we have some major damage," he said, adding that the two long perimeter walls of the rectangular-shaped building completely collapsed in the quake. "There's obviously some interior rooms standing and the rest of it's gone."

His major concern, however, is food. The orphanage had a small stockpile of rice and the staff has been trying to preserve fuel in the generator by turning it on only long enough to draw water from the well.

The supermarket where the orphanage bought its food, he said, was destroyed. There is a chance food and water will run out before help arrives. Clark and two others from CSI Ministries are heading to Haiti Thursday, but will not take any food with them.

"I'm sure food will be rationed off pretty severely," he said. "It's a dire situtation."