But I find I just can't. The mistreatment of children makes my blood boil. The corruption of power makes my blood boil. The combination of these two things together, funded by the wallets of clueless and well-meaning Americans . . . is killing me. So, as a public service announcement, let's have a look at This Week In UNICEFED.
(Hopefully not to become a weekly feature here. But I make no promises)
First, we find an article in Time magazine with the title Unicef Against Orphanages. In it, UNCIEF is widely quoted, suggesting that orphanages are too dangerous, and that children could be subject to trafficking or child slavery if they were cared for at orphanages. There was a brief quote from a voice of reason, an American Christian missionary who helps run an orphanage in northern Haiti "You can't let a few misguided people like [the Idaho Idiots] cast a shadow over the genuinely good work others are doing with Haitian children."
Then the article goes on to say:
That's true; but the UNICEF registry, if it can really reach out to an appreciable number of Haitian kids, could at least show Haitians an alternative to their troubling tradition of discarding children in the face of poverty and all the country's other hardships.This is where the author may have lost some critical thinking points. Because "registering" a child, while important, is not the same thing as "caring" for a child, nor does it solve the problem of children who have lost their parents. There could be a long, long wait between registering a child and finding a living person to care for that child. Why can't a child be registered, and then placed into the care of an already established orphanage until the parents are found? Why would UNICEF assume that reputable orphanages, registered with the Haitian government, can't be trusted to care for children? Adoptions in Haiti are closed, and registered orphanages are very aware of this fact.
Most people I know who do relief work would agree that a sign of an effective relief organization is its ability to work WITH already established and trusted charities, organizations and people already in the country. If I've ever seen a place where people need to pool resources, it's Haiti.
And yet, what is UNICEF doing with longstanding orphanages? The BRESMA orphanage has been highly publicized due to the dire condition their children were in after the quake. Their buildings were uninhabitable, they had no food and water, and many children were sick.
Their story was all over the news. Did UNICEF visit these children with relief? No. But once the children were taken to another orphanage that had space, UNICEF showed up. God's Littlest Angels had space, and beds, and these two orphanages made the logical decision to work together. Dixie Bickel is the founder of God's Littlest Angels. She has been in Haiti for 13 years and has a solid reputation. Here's what she said February 3rd:
And then on February 11th:
I have really been praying about the problem with UNICEF. When I was downtown today, I talked to other schools and orphanages and they are having problems with UNICEF representatives too. It is like they have taken over in Haiti and appointed themselves as controllers of all activities for children! But I have given this problem over to God. I still feel some anger with them because of the injustice of having small children sleeping outside in poor conditions when there are orphanages that have empty beds waiting to take some children in, but I have given this over to God. He does not need my help in getting these children out of the camps and into childcare facilities! I have made everyone aware of the problem including UNICEF and IBESR staff. . . . . As the babies come in, we will do our best to care for them and keep them safe and healthy until their mothers can take them back with them again. I almost said...back home...but most do not have a home anymore.
All I can think about is children and babies sleeping out on the ground in the rain. All I can say is PLEASE UNICEF and PLEASE Haitian Social Services, BRING THE BABIES TO GLA! They will eventually decide that they must do something with all of these orphans and place them in orphanages but how sick will the children be by that time?
I can feel Dixie's frustration, as someone who advocates for orphan care. It makes no sense. Her facility is top-notch for caring for sick babies. They have ample staff, incubators, and the ability to do IV drips. Why should children be sleeping outdoors in UNICEF camps when they could be registered and sent here until family is identified? Some of these children will be waiting so long. I'll show some pictures of UNICEF camps, too, but here is Dixie's facility. Again, remembering UNICEF's "against orphanages" stance:
And then this happened to Dixie on Friday:
I am angry today. BRESMA brought 32 children to GLA to get them inside and out of the weather. The children were getting sicker and sicker. Several had been in hospital and one had even died. The older children can tolerate being outside better than the babies. To save her children, the director of BRESMA made the decision to put them in GLA for 3 months until repairs could be made to her orphanage. Sounds simple, huh?
Well, UNICEF talked to Margarette and I on the phone Friday evening while Margarette was at GLA delivering the children. UNICEF knew that the children were being transferred to GLA. Today, UNICEF came on their own. No IBESR representative was with them. . . . Who is running Haitian Social Services? UNICEF? Can we not act to save our children and do what is best for them without the permission of UNICEF? All of these 32 children have adoptive families.
Unfortunately, the 10 American missionaries seem to have cast suspicion on everyone. But Dixie has been in Haiti for years, and is registered with IBESR (the Haitian version of social services). It's unbelievable to me that she would be treated this way, instead of being used as a resource for the THOUSANDS of displaced or orphaned children.
Then on Saturday, six children who were legally adopted and bound for the United States were stopped with their caregivers at the airport. A riot broke out when some Haitian men saw the children and assumed they were being kidnapped. These children had papers from the US Embassy and signed papers from the Haitian prime minister. They have been waiting to go home to their parents for weeks. Instead, the caregivers were detained and questioned for eight hours, and the children sent to a UNICEF camp. Now, obviously the riot is not UNICEF's fault. But why are this children being kept in a camp, instead of released back to their orphanage caregivers? The orphanage responsible for these kids is Children of the Promise. They have a great reputation and have been operating in Haiti for a long time. They are furious that the children are being held at this camp in these conditions. Here are some photos they posted of the children in the UNICEF tent. They report that there were no bottles or diapers for the babies and very few adults. The tents are hot and the babies are being cared for by older children.
Hopefully, the situation for these children will be resolved soon, and they will travel to the US to be with their families. But for the thousands of children orphaned or displaced in the quake - they will not be so lucky. If UNICEF continues to call the shots, child will live in these conditions indefinitely - sleeping in crowded and sweltering tents while IBESR registered orphanages have empty beds . . . all so UNICEF can maintain control.
I am beyond frustrated that they are wielding political power in ways that put vulnerable children at risk, and I'm angered that it is being done in the name of social justice.