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US, France open their doors to Haitian orphans

The French and US governments are easing the entry of orphaned Haitian children into their countries in the wake of the devastating earthquake. UNICEF fears that as many as two million children have been affected by the disaster.


The United States and France announced on Monday they would facilitate the legal entry of eligible orphans from Haiti into their countries, as UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, scrambled to raise funds and help the most vulnerable victims of Tuesday’s earthquake.


While officials have estimated that as many as 200,000 people may have died since the earthquake struck, UNICEF indicated that children are among the worst affected in the unfolding humanitarian crisis, even if it could not give definite figures.

“According to our estimates, around two million children have been directly or indirectly touched by the quake,” Benedicte Jeannerod, a spokesperson for the organisation, told AFP news agency.

In a country where approximately 50 percent of the population is under the age of 18, and 38 percent under 14 years, the UN agency fears staggering numbers of dead, injured and orphaned children. “It’s a reasonable expectation that about 50 percent of those affected, if not more, are children,” said Caryl Stern, president of the US fund for UNICEF.

The fund has collected 14 million dollars this week and has set a target of 127 million dollars for Haitian relief. Stern said the organisation’s 100 workers on the ground would initially help locate children who are separated from their families, before assessing longer-term needs.

US, France ease entry to some orphans

The United States on Monday said it would allow orphaned children from Haiti to enter the US legally, while the French presidency announced it would accelerate the adoption process for cases that were already in progress.

"While we remain focused on family reunification in Haiti, authorising the use of humanitarian parole for orphans who are eligible for adoption in the United States will allow them to receive the care they need here," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.

The US move does not open the country's doors to all Haitian orphans, but does allow US parents adopting children from Haiti to skip final paperwork or passports from the Haitian government, which is struggling to cope in the aftermath of the killer quake.

At the request of President Nicolas Sarkozy, France also announced on Monday that it would undertake extraordinary measures to facilitate the completion of adoptions of Haitian children by French families that are already underway.

"These new provisions are justified by the exceptional circumstances in Haiti, in the best interest of children and their families," a French official told AFP.

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