“Haiti quake creates thousands of new orphans”

*(Jan 19) PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Jean Peterson Estime was outside playing soccer when his home pancaked in last week’s earthquake and killed his parents and five sisters.

Now he sleeps with thousands in a Port-au-Prince park and forages in rubble for food and goods he can sell to survive.

“I’m trying to get a little job so I can take care of myself,” he says, attempting to look brave even as he shuffles his dirty feet in too-big sandals.

What the 13-year-old really wants is someone to take him in.

Tens of thousands of children have been orphaned by the magnitude-7.0 quake, aid groups say — so many that officials won’t venture a number. With buildings destroyed and growing chaos in the capital, they say many children are like Jean — living alone on the streets.

“Without doubt, most of them are in the open,” said Elizabeth Rodgers, of the Britain-based international orphan group SOS Children.

Some may have family, but they’ve been abandoned or left unconscious at triage centers for care.

One 5-month-old patient at the Israeli field hospital has a number rather than a name.

No one even knows who left him at the makeshift medical center after he was pulled from a collapsed building four days after the quake. Doctors have a difficult decision as he recovers.

“What will we do with him when we are finished?” said Dr. Assa Amit of the hospital’s pediatric emergency department.

Even before Tuesday’s deadly magnitude-7.0 earthquake, Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, was awash in orphans, with 380,000 children living in orphanages or group homes, the United Nations Children’s Fund reported on its Web site…..

Meanwhile, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said the United Nations is establishing a group on the ground in Haiti to protect children — orphans and non-orphans alike — against trafficking, kidnapping and sex abuse.

Orphanages that were operating in Haiti before the earthquake are scrambling to keep their kids safe, sheltered and fed.

Sweet Sleep’s partners in Haiti are taking in so many children like the ones you’ve read about above. They are providing them love, comfort, food, water, safety and warm places to sleep. And, you are a big part of the reason why.

There is much happening to share with you in the days to come. I encourage you to subscribe to our blog or, if you already do, to forward our posts to those who might also want to be aware of how they can help Haiti’s littlest victims.

Thank you again for amazing ways you’ve responded. You can also check our website, www.sweetsleep.org for more information on how you can help.

See you in the next blog,

*This is an excerpt of an article by AP writer, Tamara Lush which ran on January 19, 2010. Photo credit: AFP

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