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Caring for Children in Haiti
Detail: The earthquake in Haiti affected an estimated 1.26 million children – approximately 700,000 of them school-aged. These children urgently need support and assistance to rebuild their lives.

UNICEF and its partners have set up an interim care centre in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, for children separated from their parents by the earthquake. The centre serves as a temporary shelter for earthquake survivors ranging from 7 to 15 years of age. It consists of three large tents and an enclosed structure, and is staffed by professionals trained to meet the needs of children who are distressed in the earthquake’s aftermath.

While the children at the centre appear unharmed and well cared for, the challenge now is to locate those who are still fending for themselves on the streets and living in temporary communities.The interim care centre itself is a temporary measure for providing physical and emotional support – which is vital to the well-being of children separated from their parents in emergencies like the earthquake. UNICEF is working with Haiti’s social welfare agency to establish an alternative care arrangement for vulnerable children.

The country has a number of residential care centres, the majority of which are run privately or by faith-based organizations. However, these facilities remain unregulated. In the absence of legal standards, the care is often wanting.

UNICEF Chief of Child Protection Susan Bissell suggested that now would be a good time for Haiti to put into practice the alternative care guidelines adopted by the United Nations in November 2009, in connection with the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The guidelines aim to ensure that children are not placed in alternative care unnecessarily and, where out-of-home care is provided, that it responds to the child's rights, needs and best interests.
Date: April 4 2010