Orphans in Haiti are being offered for sale to foreigners for as little as 30 pounds ($50 Cdn) amid warnings that up to one million children in the country have been left vulnerable to abuse and trafficking in the wake of the earthquake.
In a remote area north of the capital Port-au-Prince, a man was reported on Wednesday to have offered to sell a young boy for just $50.
The first confirmed case of a child being offered for sale since Haiti was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake on January 12 took place near Gonaives, 150km north of Port-au-Prince. It was reported by Noel Ismonin, a Canadian pastor who rescues orphans in the area. A man offered to sell him the boy but the pastor refused.
Meanwhile, in camps around the capital there were several reports of men being lynched after being accused by earthquake victims of trying to steal infants from tents.
The incident raised fears that child trafficking gangs could move into poor rural areas that have yet to be properly reached by aid agencies.
“There are an estimated one million unaccompanied or orphaned children, or children who lost one parent,” said Kate Conradt, a spokesman for Save the Children. “They are extremely vulnerable.”
A group of 78 children sleeping in the street outside their shattered orphanage are being guarded at night by local people. The bodies of 56 other children remain buried under the collapsed Notre Dame de la Nativite orphanage in the Carrefour slum area of the capital.
The youngest victims, Cedric Francois and James Alcius, were both just five months old. Of the survivors, many had wounds to their heads and limbs. They sleep on blankets laid in the street.
“If it rains it will be terrible,” said Eveline Louis-Jacques, 61, who runs the orphanage.
Vanessa Line, three, was rescued after spending two days stuck in the rubble. She stares blankly ahead and does not speak, clearly traumatized by her ordeal.
Naika Simon, six, who suffered head wounds when timber fell on her, said: “It hurt me and I was crying. I could hear others crying as well. It was dark and I was scared. I miss my mummy and daddy.”
The orphanages have become targets for people desperate for food, water and medicine. Maison de Lumiere, which has 50 orphans, came under attack from a group of 20 armed men but security guards drove them off.
Charities and aid agencies are only supplying the orphanages with a few days of food and water at a time in case they are looted.
Ann Barnes, who worked for the UN in Haiti, has been named as the second British victim of the earthquake.
Barnes, 59, was originally from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, and was personal assistant to the UN Police Commissioner.