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Post-quake Haitian Orphans Dream of Safer, Better Future

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Naive smiles, warm hugs and curious eyes ... all were from children living in an orphanage in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince when they greeted every visitor to their shared home Saturday.

However, in one of the offices of the orphanage, its director Jean Fritz was worried about both the living conditions and mental trauma that the orphans are facing.

"We need water, food, tents and blankets. I hope we could get the aid as soon as possible," Fritz said.

The orphanage, dubbed Haiti Children's Rescue Mission, accepted children who have lost their parents or whose parents could not afford to feed them after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti on January 12.

Fourteen-year-old Wedline was sent here with her two younger brothers by their parents, who thought it was safer for their children to be in an orphanage than in makeshift camps.

In another orphanage in the city, 78 little survivors had to live in the open air without beds, tents, food and clean water, while 56 other boys and girls, aged from one to eight, were killed and buried underneath after their three-story home collapsed in the magnitude-7.3 quake, with nothing but their small shoes, clothes, study cards and toys still seen in the debris.

In the backyard of the orphanage, some children who have survived the quake, were lying on the grass quietly, with numerous flies crawling over them.

It was time for shower. Two female workers used the only piece of soap and two basins of water to help the children have a bath.

John Leininger, head of a nongovernment organization from the United States, said he visited dozen of orphanages in Port-au-Prince and every orphanage was in dire need of shelter, clothing, food and clean water.

Leininger said the Haitian government and international organizations could hopefully speed up and simplify the adoption process in a bid to help the Haitian children find a new warm home and education opportunities.

Jean Christopher, who is in charge of Haitian children's adoption by French citizens, told Xinhua that the Haitian government has promised to finish the adoption process within a week.

However, the United Nations children's fund UNICEF said earlier that it would recommend loosening or simplifying the standard procedure of adoption.

Judy Foster, head of a children's village in south Haiti, said children and women are the most vulnerable group in natural disasters, and the orphans are the weakest of the weak in the group.

But local orphans had not received enough and appropriate care, said Foster, who arrived in the capital city shortly after the earthquake to provide care for Haitian orphans.

"The orphans need help and care immediately. They can't wait and they should not suffer any more," she added.

Foster called on the Haitian government to ease the adoption policy to provide the orphans easier access to medical and psychological treatment, basic living guarantees and good education.

"These children are the most needy but they can't get help now. They need love and care from people all over the world," Leininger said.

(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2010)

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