Keeping children in Haiti safe from child traffickers
Plan is taking the lead in the fight to protect orphans and other vulnerable children at risk of trafficking after the Haiti quake.
Tens of thousands of girls and boys who are orphaned or wandering around looking for relatives since the devastating earthquake earlier in January have made Haiti more lucrative than ever for child traffickers.
Children disproportionately affected
As Plan’s Dr. Unni Krishnan states, “The most vulnerable groups — children, pregnant and breast feeding women, people with disabilities and elderly— will bear the brunt. This reality compels aid groups and development organizations to focus most of our efforts on children.”
Just this week, Plan has been appointed to lead an anti-trafficking taskforce by a commission of aid agencies. Our objectives are to help find safe shelter for homeless children, issue warnings about traffickers, and increase knowledge on preventing and reporting cases.
Where do the children go?
Outside of Port au Prince, Plan is helping support a care center for children (Centre d'Action Development, or CAD) run by a woman named Marline. Originally home to 75 children, the CAD has suddenly found itself home to 200 additional children newly orphaned by the earthquake.
Marline Mondesir — who, over the years, has become known as the most warm-hearted foster mother of Port au Prince — talks about child traffickers in Haiti:
“I have been fighting against the child traffickers of Haiti all my life. They’re ruthless. They kidnap street children for their organs, or they turn them into prostitutes or sell them as slaves to hotels, restaurants or rich families. The littlest ones go to orphanages, which offer them to foreigners for adoption. A child offered for adoption can fetch between 10,000 and 20,000 US dollars.
“Now, after the earthquake, tens of thousands of children are wandering the streets in the areas that have been worst hit. They are in shock: most ran out of the house when it happened, ran as far away as possible, and have lost everyone and everything.
“The child traffickers find that their prey is served to them on a platter. But they don’t just concentrate on street children, they also visit families who have lost everything and can no longer feed their children. They promise to place the children with well-to-do adoptive parents, where the little ones will have a much better life. These families are trusting and are easily persuaded to give up their kids. And then they never hear from them again.
“You must not forget that most child traffickers are women, which makes them seem more trustworthy. One of my “colleagues,” who I have known for years, used to own an orphanage. Now she has been exposed as a child trafficker.”
Starting over in Ganthier
Marline is hopeful, even as she surveys the wreckage around her.
“Plan will start an extensive campaign here in Haiti, with large billboards, and they will also send students — who can’t attend university now anyway — into the neighborhoods. They warn families and street children and tell them about the true face of child traffickers. Plan has also promised me to help me with the expansion of this center, and also with psycho-social support and education.
“I would also like to warn everybody abroad not to adopt children from Haiti if they’re not 100% sure that the child is really an orphan. Our president, Perval, has officially declared a temporary stop on adoptions, to prevent the lucrative trade in children.
“I used to be a foster child. I was lucky, I was cared for in an honest orphanage and later on in a lovely Haitian family. At school, I used to dream of helping other children who no longer had a father and a mother, like me, when I was older. With aid from abroad, I was able to realize that dream.”
You can help Plan reach more children and families in Haiti. Donate today.
Find out more about Plan’s emergency response in Haiti