Orphanage where children killed was kept in deplorable state, Haitian official says

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Orphanage where children killed was kept in deplorable state, Haitian official says

Saturday, February 15, 2020

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PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – The orphanage where 15 children died on Thursday night in a fire was in a deplorable state before the blaze, according to Raymonde Antoine Jean, Justice of the Peace of Kenscoff.

Officials said the fire broke out in the orphanage of the Church “Compréhension de la Bible” (Understanding the Bible) in Fermathe 55 on the outskirts of the capital. They said at the time of the incident, only three adults were present on the scene.

Jean, who visited the scene of the tragedy, said 66 children lived in unacceptable conditions at the orphanage.

“The conditions in which the children lived were really neglected…the children lived like animals, in unsanitary premises, crammed into small rooms. They slept in bunk beds, some of them in a deplorable state,” he said, noting also that there were no fire extinguishers in the building.

According to the authorities, two children burned at the orphanage while 13 others were asphyxiated by the smoke and later died at the Fermathe hospital.

President Jovenel Moïse, who also visited the scene Friday, said “I am deeply moved by the death of a dozen children, following the fire that started on Thursday evening in the premises of the orphanage.

“I urge the competent authorities to adopt urgent measures to establish the causes of this tragedy,” he added.

UNICEF has since expressed its sadness at the incident, saying that young children, including babies were among those killed. UNICEF also condemned the opening of unaccredited children's homes that do not meet standards set by national authorities.

Director General of the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR), Arielle J. Villedroin, said that the orphanage “had not been authorized to operate since 2013.

“It's a centre which, I believe, receives money from the religious sector, from foreign missionaries, I do not know exactly but without any legality,” he said, adding the IBESR has already deployed emergency aid to children surviving from the orphanage, pending assessment of the need for comprehensive assistance, including psychosocial support.

Authorities here said that out of the 754 orphanages in operating throughout the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country, only 35 are authorised to function.

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