January 21 2010

SOS Children's Villages Haiti: Ready to take in hundreds of children

Co-workers are working closely with other organisations to provide care for unaccompanied children

In coordination with other relief organisations, SOS Children's Villages is getting ready to provide temporary care for hundreds of unaccompanied children. Emergency teams are reopening SOS Social Centres to bring food to children and families in Haiti.

21/01/2010 - Just one day after the second powerful earthquake shook Haiti, causing renewed panic and chaos but luckily no further damage to SOS facilities, the international relief effort is making good progress.

In view of the still rising death toll, it has become imperative to actively seek out children who have lost their families, either because they have perished in the earthquake or because they have been unable to find each other in the ensuing chaos. To ensure that children in this most vulnerable of positions are rapidly identified, registered and admitted to temporary care, close cooperation with other organisations on the ground is indispensable; a meeting to this extent with the UN and the Haitian Ministry of Internal Affairs, amongst others, is scheduled for today.

The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Santo has the capacity to temporarily take in hundreds of unaccompanied and possibly orphaned children. A construction team from the Dominican Republic has been given the task of adapting the building to its new temporary purpose, fitting it with a kitchen, additional toilets and a canteen. The first admissions of children are expected to take place today, retired SOS mothers and other SOS co-workers will care for these children.

As our contact on the ground, Georg Willeit, reports, hundreds of families assemble outside the SOS Children's Village in Santo every morning to receive food, medicine and, most importantly, water from the staff of SOS Children's Villages Haiti.

Another pressing need is to provide food for families in the SOS social programmes in the surrounding communities, many of which are mourning the death of immediate family members and relatives. To do this, six of the 16 community centers SOS Children's Villages runs in the area have reopened, the operative readiness of others is still being assessed.

All this requires a steady stream of supplies.coming in from outside. In addition to an air shipment that brought medical and technical equipment, a second truck coming from the Dominican Republic with construction material, medicine, food and water is expected to arrive in Haiti today.

In addition to the efforts of Haitian SOS staff members, SOS co-workers with ample experience in responding to disastrous events have been flown in from several countries. Their task is to ensure smooth operations both on the ground in Haiti as well as to facilitate these operations by coordinating logistics and provisions from the Dominican Republic.