Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kids being stolen, UNICEF says

UNICEF warned Thursday that many of the tens of thousands of Haitian children left homeless by last week's earthquake are being trafficked out of the country.

Guido Cornale, the UNICEF representative in Haiti, said people with bad intentions are stealing children -- even from hospitals--and shipping them out of the country to "sell them."

"We had to move children who were in hospitals so they could be better protected because we noticed there were people coming in to take kids," he said.

Cornale blamed loose controls at the airport and the border to the Dominican Republic.

"The access to the airport is pretty open. We, the national police and MINUSTA (the UN mission in Haiti), we were not able to control access to the runway and UNICEF observed children being brought onto planes," he said.

Some legitimate adoptions occurred after the quake but these were cases already being processed, Cornale said.

"We cannot, while believing to do good, take children from the streets and bring them out of the country. Perhaps they have parents who, because of the shock, lost contact with their kids. The first thing we must do is bring the families together," he said. Cornale couldn't say how many children were trafficked or where they were going.

He said the UN and Haitian police would be stepping up security at checkpoints. But Haiti's secretary of state for agriculture, Michel Chancy, said he wasn't aware there was a child trafficking problem.

"There will be no authorization given to individuals or NGOs for adoptions now," he said. The agency estimates that of the earthquake's 1 million victims, 47% are children under 18 and 18% are under five years of age.