Haiti: 15 children die in fire in unsanitary orphanage

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The fire of an orphanage in Haiti killed 15 children in the night from Thursday to Friday. Two children died in the orphanage and 13 from suffocation at the Fermathe hospital, according to the judge of the commune of Kenscoff.

“According to the statements of one of the children, the origin of the fire would come from candles which they had lit to light their rooms because the electrical system” had “a problem”, indicated the judge. The fire started shortly after 9 p.m. local time Thursday (2 a.m. in France on Friday). An investigation was opened to determine the cause of the disaster and to identify the persons responsible for the establishment.

Friday morning, the magistrate proceeded in the building to the death of the two victims at undetermined ages, while identifying the damage caused by the fire by browsing through all the rooms.

The orphanage which, according to her, no longer had legal authorization to operate since 2013, was located in an unsanitary two-story building, with bunk beds – some in deplorable condition – crammed into small rooms, with a cramped staircase and only an exit door open.

“The conditions in which the children lived are really, really neglected,” deplored Judge Raymonde Jean Antoine, adding that he had “not noticed the presence of fire extinguishers”.

Only three adults present on the evening of the drama

The orphanage of the Church of comprehension of the Bible, located in Kenscoff, commune on the heights of the agglomeration of Port-au-Prince sheltered approximately 66 children. Only three adults were present at the time of the tragedy.

“This center has no authorization to operate,” confirmed Arielle Jeanty Villedrouin, director of the Haitian administration for child protection (IBESR), on Friday. “It is a center which, I believe, receives money from the religious sector, from foreign missionaries, without any legality,” deplores Ms. Villedrouin.

At the start of 2019, the administration had noted that only 35 of the 756 accommodation centers for minors identified across the country had operating authorization.

In addition to the ongoing judicial investigations, the public administration is working to “recover the surviving children, who are traumatized after having experienced this tragedy, and place them at the IBESR transition center where they will have psychosocial support” a indicated Mrs. Villedrouin.

In 2017, Lumos, an organization created by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, revealed that at least $ 70 million has reached only one-third of Haitian orphanages annually. An amount estimated after the sole analysis of the budget reports of foreign NGOs, the accounts of religious missions not being made available.

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