An advisor for Unicef told reporters that about 15 children had disappeared from hospitals, presumed taken.
Jean Luc Legrand was quoted as saying, “Unicef has been working in Haiti for many years and we knew the problem with the trade of children in Haiti which existed before, and unfortunately many of these trade networks have links with the international adoption ‘market’.”
A spokesman for the charity said it could not confirm the figures but had referred the reports to the Haitian government, which was investigating. It has stepped up its efforts to ensure all children under five are in a safe place and properly fed by this weekend.
Hannah Reichardt, emergencies advisor for Save the Children, said, “This is why child protection is utmost in our concern at the moment, particularly because we know that child trafficking was already a problem in Haiti before the quake.”
She said tracing families was the “primary important thing that we do” at this stage in an emergency, alongside aid distribution. Save the Children is now co-ordinating all family tracing work in Haiti at the request of the UN. Twenty-nine agencies are currently pooling child protection resources in the country.
Both charities have joined other agencies which have warned would-be parents against hasty adoptions of children who would appear to have been orphaned. Bethany Christian Services, a US adoption agency, said it had received more than 1,000 requests for adoption applications, while the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, a US advocacy organisation, said it had received 150 enquiries about Haitian adoption in three days, compared with ten a month normally. It said that evacuating children from Haiti at present, even with altruistic motives, was “premature and dangerous”.