In advance of the "International Donors' Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti" on 31 March at the United Nations in New York, a coalition of child-focused organisations and concerned governments is holding the side event "A Haiti Fit for Children" which will take place on 30 March at UNICEF in New York. This event is intended to draw the world's attention to the long-term needs of children and families in Haiti.
“The success of rebuilding Haiti after the January earthquake will be measured by its most vulnerable children and their families,” says Celigny Darius, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Haiti, who will be representing SOS Children’s Villages at the event on 30 March. “Haitians, civil society and the international community need to come together to protect children and families made vulnerable by the earthquake. No group can do it alone”, adds Celigny Darius.
Child protection has long been a concern in Haiti, and in the wake of the earthquake, children who have been separated from or have lost their families have become more vulnerable. As world leaders come together to support the rebuilding of Haiti, the international community stands ready to mobilise resources and partner on strategies to strengthen systems to protect children. This objective being one of the key priorities presented by the Global Movement for Children Latin America in their statement A Haiti Fit for Children and Youth.
SOS Children’s Villages International calls for the application of the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children as standards to ensure that all vulnerable children and their families get top priority in planning for the rebuilding of Haiti:
- Ensure all efforts are made to register separated and unaccompanied children and reunite them with their families.
- Provide safe, quality interim care during tracing and reunification efforts which may, in some cases, require months or een years. Residential care facilities should only be a temporary measure until family-based care can be developed.
- Develop a comprehensive child protection system to ensure programmes, policies, and procedures are in place to protect all children living in vulnerable circumstances, in particular children living without the care and protection of their families.
- Direct urgent attention and resources to protect children from being trafficked.
- Establish social work and child care systems that aim to support and strengthen families in caring for their children, but that also provide a range of quality alternative care options for children who can not live with or who have lost their families.
“Poverty is a persistent issue in Haiti and we have to do our utmost to ensure that any action taken is in the best interests of children. That should be at the core of it all,” says Patricia Vargas, regional director of SOS Children's Villages in Central America and the Caribbean, who led the initial response of SOS Children’s Villages in Haiti, and who has also been active in networks of NGOs, with UNICEF and the Government of Haiti, to join forces to strengthen family re-unification processes in Haiti.
Celigny Darius concludes: “Reconstructing our country will take years. We, the social workers, office staff and board members of SOS Children’s Villages Haiti are Haitians - this is our home and our future, too. We have been active as a local NGO for over 30 years, and will continue to support children and families in the long term. That is why I call on everyone to give the strongest possible support for the rebuilding of Haiti, not only now but also during the weeks, months and years to come. Let us work together to rebuild our Haiti - for the children.”