100 children remain in hands of traffickers in Haiti, says IOM

from: caribbeannetnews.com

August 18, 2007

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP):  Some 100 children in urgent need of medical help remained in the hands of traffickers in Haiti who were seeking to sell them for adoption, one week after 48 kids were rescued from the same place, an intergovernmental organization said Friday.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said initial estimates by Haitian authorities put the number of children still awaiting rescue at more than 40.

But "officials now believe there are about 100 children there in urgent need of medical assistance", it said, adding that Haiti's social well-being agency was in need of financing to rescue them.

The IOM said the 48 children rescued last week "were found in conditions of extreme neglect".

"Most were suffering from malnutrition, severe diarrhea, dehydration, and skin diseases," the Geneva-based organisation said. "Many parents had difficulties recognizing their children upon their return home."

According to the IOM, the 48 children from the impoverished Grande Anse region had been "given away" by their parents to traffickers who had promised to help them and taken to an adoption centre in Port-au-Prince.

"One government official revealed that during an unannounced visit made a few days before the rescue, the children were hidden in the basement, frightened and filthy," the IOM said. "Neighbours have confirmed that they often heard children crying."

In a statement to a local radio station, one of the presumed traffickers said that when the imminent rescue of the children was announced, those working at the creche restricted the amount of food and other basic care normally given to the children, the IOM said.

Ten of the children remain hospitalised.

The IOM was seeking financing for Haitian authorities both for rescue efforts and assistance to child victims of trafficking. Money must also be spent to raise awareness about human trafficking in impoverished areas of Haiti, it said.

According to the IOM, families in areas such as Jeremie, a poor and isolated district in the southwest, are unable to provide needs for their children, including food, health care and education.

"If urgent sensitisation measures are not carried out in the region, there is a risk that destitute parents will continue to give their children away and these ruthless traffickers will continue to thrive in Haiti's more destitute areas," Geslet Bordes, manager of IOM's child trafficking programme in Haiti, said in a statement.

An IOM official explained at the time of last week's rescue that parents approached a local non-governmental organisation for help after they found out their children were being kept at the centre.

With the help of other NGOs, the parents filed a complaint against the owner of the centre in 2006 and campaigned for the return of their children, the official said.

"IOM is also providing financial support for the immediate medical and psychological care of the children as well as reintegration assistance for both the children and their parents," the organisation said.

IOM has assisted with the return and re-integration of 121 children victims of trafficking in Haiti since 2005 with financing from the US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

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