Compassion UK Acts To Protect Haitian Children Separated From Caregivers

CHRISTIAN CHILDREN’S CHARITY ACTING TO PROTECT HAITIAN CHILDREN SEPARATED FROM CAREGIVERS BY SUPPORTING LOCAL CHURCH PARTNERS

In the wake of the devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace in Haiti, many children in the affected southern regions have been separated from their caregivers, putting them at significant risk. Security and political turmoil are already major issues in this area of Haiti and gangs are turning to measures such as kidnappings and road blockades. In response, Christian international child development charity, Compassion UK, is supporting long-standing Haitian church partners who are working hard to reunite children with their parents, while keeping both the children and staff safe.

The impact of the Haiti earthquake on one of the Compassion development centres

The charity is setting up child-friendly spaces to allow unaccompanied minors to seek refuge and safely wait as missing caregivers are located. These spaces provide children a safe environment to play and process their emotions with trusted adults who will be able to provide the necessary reunification information. 

Compassion-assisted churches are also assessing and responding to the immediate survival needs of the children and families affected with approximately 18,000 food and hygiene kits, as well as ensuring those needing medical care and trauma counselling get access to necessary support.

More than 17,000 Compassion-assisted children and their families live in the area impacted by the earthquake, with approximately 4,000 of their homes heavily damaged and a further 2,700 homes completely destroyed. Compassion is trying to keep families and children together by providing shelter for those who have lost their homes. Because families are more likely to own their own land in this rural setting, whereas the 2010 earthquake hit the populous capital of Port-au-Prince, the goal is to set up temporary shelters on their land that can become a part of permanent shelters and homes in the future.

Justin Dowds, CEO of Compassion UK explains, “This rural location where many of these families live, provides many different challenges when compared to our response after the 2010 earthquake, but we are committed to serving and protecting the children and young people in this area. Compassion’s unique response is to strengthen and rebuild the most effective support system on the island: the local church. Historically, the church has been Haiti’s lifeline, support system, and refuge—even before this most recent earthquake hit.”

A Compassion child development centre and church, including several classrooms, were destroyed by the Haiti earthquake

The island has already recovered from the 2010 earthquake that struck the capital Port-au-Prince, but the earthquake on 14 August destroyed churches, schools, and homes in the southern regions of Haiti.

Compassion has a long history of serving children and families in extreme poverty on the island nation, through a total of 354 frontline church partners, and is mobilising staff and funds to support people who have been impacted by the quake.

“So far, 46 of our child development projects have been impacted, which serve more than 17,000 children. Many projects will need to be completely rebuilt to withstand any potential future earthquakes and hurricanes. We’re hearing reports that 15 projects have been destroyed, with another 15 damaged beyond repair. Initial estimates for the cost for emergency response and rebuilding is in excess of US$20 million.

“The faster we can get support to the country, the more we can do in the next few days and weeks. Sadly, the recovery process may take years, but we are committed to reopening projects to serve children in the area as soon as we can.

“Staff members from our National Office are currently assessing the welfare of our church partners, children, and their families. We will start informing our sponsors directly when we hear whether their sponsored child has been affected.”

A church building with the walls destroyed

The charity is also encouraging donations for the recovery process. Compassion UK has already committed £200k from their Disaster response fund to help with immediate needs 

“We are asking our supporters to donate to our Haiti Disaster Appeal. And we are asking people to pray,” says Justin.

“Pray for the children and family members who have been injured, displaced, or whose homes have been destroyed. Please pray for God’s comfort for those who have lost loved ones and those who are still waiting to hear their news. Pray also that aid will swiftly get to all those affected by this disaster. Also pray for the rescue workers who are trying to find the many missing people, many of them trapped under the rubble”

At least 1,941 people have died in the earthquake, while nearly 10,000 people have been injured. The UN estimates about 500,000 children now have limited or no access to shelter, safe water, and food.

To find out more about how Compassion is supporting and protecting Haitian children and their families impacted by the earthquake, go to https://www.compassionuk.org/news/haiti-disaster-update/.

Written By: Sarann Buckby

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