Haiti Earthquake Devastates Lives of Orphans, Unwanted Children

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

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."

Orphanage Leaders Desperate for Information, Consumed With Worry

After the earthquake, the H.O.P.E. children slept outside on the lawn of the medical clinic. It's where they will stay, Clark said, until CSI Ministries can arrange for structural engineers to inspect the clinic to determine whether it's safe to move the children in the the few upstairs apartments where missionaries currently live.

Several other orphanage operators posted memos on their Web site, telling supporters and worried relatives that they were safe. A report from God's Littlest Angels outside Port-au-Prince noted that the earthquake knocked the children to the floor.

The children there, even the infants, are sleeping in the driveway. "Shook up a little, but OK!" they reported.

It's that kind of news that Charlucie Jaboin is desperate for. President of the Reveil Matinal Orphanage Foundation, which houses 19 girls in Port-au-Prince, Jaboin had received no word about her children nearly 24 hours after the earthquake struck.

"This is very hard for me to say," she told ABCNews.com from her office in Queens, N.Y. "I don't know what to do."

Jaboin's concerns were further piqued after learning that the orphanage's landlord, who is visiting the United States, made brief contact with his sister and learned that his house, located within walking distance to the girls' home, had partially collapsed. The connection went dead, she said, before he was able to ask about the children.

Jaboin said she has been making calls, trying to find anyone with a connection to Haiti who can check on the girls she considers her children, and the staff of five. She's already planning to contact the Red Cross in the United States for help in getting food and water to them.

The RMOF girls normally eat a lot of rice and beans along with corn meal, milk and whatever local produce they can buy. Now, she said, they will take whatever they can get.

Like Clark, she worries about what will come next, not only for her children, but for the others sure to need help.

"Where are we going from there?" she asked. "These children, they are needy children. And if anything happens to their owners, what will happen to them."

Jaboin, who was raised in Haiti and moved to the United States in 1974, said orphanages in Haiti are unlike those in many other countries. The children, she said, are very rarely adopted. Their caregivers love their children as their own, knowing they will never have families to come pick them up.

"We may have to take some more, but we don't know," she said. "Space is limited."

For all the children who have found homes in orphanages, there are many still left on the street. On a good day, Jaboin said, "They eat whatever they can get. Or they spend the day without food."

On a bad day, they beg. "God knows" what will happen to those children now, she said.

Somebody will need to thelp them, she said, "if God permits them to live."

Skyrocketing Prices, Lack of Water Hampers Efforts to Care for Haiti's Children

Julie Manfred, a volunteer with HIS Home for Children in Port-au-Prince, said they have already begun making arrangements for the 125 children under their care.

She was briefly able to contact the orphanage director before the phone lines went down and learned that all of the children were safe.

"They did have walls fall down at the orphanage. But they had all the kids outside in a safe area," she said.

Of utmost concern now is the orphanage's assistant director, Jean "Junior" Jumelle, who has not been accounted for. Last heard from around 3 p.m., he was headed for home in a particularly hard hit Port-au-Prince suburb.

Manfred, an adoptive parent, who was already planning a trip to Haiti this weekend, is going to try and keep her seat on the plane so she can deliver 500 pounds of baby formula for the orphanage's 40 infants, now sleeping outside with the rest of the children.

With baby formula already twice as expensive in Haiti as it is in the U.S., Manfred said the orphanage director hopes to use their savings -- if they can get the money out of the bank -- for water and "fuel for the generators, if they can even get fuel."