January 30, 2010 / The Portugal News Online
Portuguese aid teams have set up a temporary centre to shelter Haitian orphans and children separated from parents, as international concern mounts over the possibility of child trafficking in the wake of the massive earthquake.
The chief of the Portuguese Civil Defence team, Elísio Oliveira, told the Lusa News Agency the tent shelter on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince was to house about 50 children, alongside the Portuguese aid workers.
“We couldn’t have decided otherwise. We’re here to help and these children are in need”, Oliveira said.
The first four children to arrive were accompanied by representatives of the US organisation Love Beyond Borders who said two of them had been adopted by US families and who have since been flown to the United States.
The plight of thousands of Haitian children and their vulnerability to trafficking after the January 12 earthquake has raised concern among many, including UN agencies.
“At the moment there is no control and anything could happen”, UNICEF’s representative in the country, Guido Cornale, told Lusa.
“We’ve received reports of such situations”, Cornale added, declining to elaborate.
Another UNICEF official noted that Haiti had a history of child trafficking and that “many countries” were not following “international adoption norms” in the post-earthquake crisis.
In a related story, a second aid-laden Portuguese Air Force transport plane landed in the Haitian capital this week, bringing 12 tonnes of emergency supplies and additional aid personnel.
Officials said the Hercules C-130 carried six tonnes of drinking water, two water purifying machines, food and medical supplies.
It also ferried an additional aid team, composed of specialised firefighters and a doctor.
The plane had been held up for nearly one week in Caracas, Venezuela, awaiting landing clearance at Haiti’s congested international airport.