Tens Of Thousands Of Children Orphaned In Haiti

Even before last week's deadly earthquake, Haiti was overrun by orphans. Now tens of thousands of children have been orphaned in the disaster.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Even before an earthquake destroyed Port-au-Prince, the plight of the city's orphans was heart-rending. Now, there are many more orphaned children, and like thousands of people in the Haitian capital, they're living amid the rubble.

INSKEEP: We've reached NPR's Jason Beaubien. He is in Port-au-Prince. And Jason, where are you? What are you seeing?

JASON BEAUBIEN: Well, at the moment, I'm at an orphanage. They were completely full when the earthquake hit, and one of the striking things here is that more people keep bringing children here, and they just simply have to turn them away because they don't have the capacity, they don't have the resources to take new - any more children.

INSKEEP: So, very crowded orphanage there in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. What does anybody want to do with a building full of Haitian orphans? What are the plans?

BEAUBIEN: They would like to airlift all of them to the United States immediately, is what they would like to do. And they're in the process - these children were probably going to get adopted to Americans at some point. Some of them were in the process. Some - about 10 of them here actually had U.S. passports, and there are some little glitches that are holding them up. They're trying to get all of that worked out and basically just get these kids out of here because at this point, the entire city is in no way capable of supporting even just people that can function and can work. So they're really hoping to just get all of these orphans out of Port-au-Prince.

INSKEEP: Jason, how old are the orphans that you're visiting?

BEAUBIEN: There are babies that are in a, basically, a dilapidated Isuzu delivery truck. The babies sleep in the back of that truck. And then under a tarp, there are, sort of, kids who are a little bit older, probably two to five. And then they range all the way up to 15. And, obviously, the teenagers are outside. But everyone is sleeping outside at the moment, 150 orphans, and they're all sleeping out in the open.

INSKEEP: Is there food and water there for them?

BEAUBIEN: At the moment, they have water, and they've gotten - they have gotten some relief supplies brought in here. And they say they're still quite concerned about medicine. They're concerned about medical care. There's been -some of the kids have been getting sick. But they have gotten a few shipments of supplies into here.

INSKEEP: Is there a reasonable number of surviving adults to care for these very, very small children?

BEAUBIEN: Yes, there actually is. Because so many other people are displaced -there are quite a few Haitian women who have moved into the compound here and are just living with these orphans.

INSKEEP: And when you talk about infants in an Isuzu truck, what about the orphanage building or buildings themselves? Did they survive?

BEAUBIEN: Their building actually survived quite well. It had some damage. They haven't really had a chance to completely assess it, and that is part of why (unintelligible) that, and the fact that people are afraid to be sleeping inside. Obviously, after that incredibly powerful quake, there's great fear of getting back into buildings that people don't know whether or not they're safe.

INSKEEP: When, as you said, orphans are brought to this very full orphanage and are turned away, what is happening to those children?

BEAUBIEN: Every orphanage we've been to has said that they're just simply turning the kids away. It's kind of unclear what's happening with them. Probably, they're getting absorbed in with the other people who are sleeping on the streets, but those children are incredibly vulnerable. It's very unclear what's going to happen to an untold number of kids who have lost both their parents from this quake.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Jason, thanks very much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome, Steve.

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