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Americas
Haiti 'orphans' kept from parents
Children US missionaries tried to take out of quake-hit capital remain in orphanage.
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2010 02:33 GMT

Nine of the 10 Christian missionaries that were detained in Haiti after they illegally tried to take 33 Haitian children across the border - following January's devastating earthquake - have been freed and are now back at home in the US.

They were released after some parents of the Haitian children came forward to the court admitting that they willingly gave away their children to the US missionary group in hopes of providing them "a better life".

However, the children have been living in limbo waiting to be reunited with their parents in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

"I wouldn't say things are not good here ... but I want to see my mum and dad", one of the children said about the orphanage where he is staying in the mountain village of Callebasse.

SOS orphanage, asked by the government to care for the abandoned children, is also unsure about their future.

"Honestly we don't know. I mean the kids have been in our care for five weeks," Line Wolf Nielson, a worker at the orphanage, said.

"As it is we have no timeframe on when we can reunite the kids with their families."

'Hostile authorities'

The parents of the children say they have been met with hostility by Haitian authorities over requests to get their children back.

"We feel like the government is punishing us for what we did," one parent said.

"The childcare workers are rude, they ignore us and they keep giving us the runaround."

When Al Jazeera's Steve Chao tried to talk to child welfare services to get some answers about the fate of the children, he was refused an interview.

Al Jazeera's investigation into what happened these children after the media storm around their abduction ended, came on the same day that Barack Obama, the US president, said that conditions in the country remained dire and promised that the US would be a reliable partner in reconstruction efforts.

Obama, speaking at the White House after meeting with Rene Preval, the Haitian president, on Wednesday, said only a global response to the country's crisis could help it recover.

Crisis 'ongoing'

"The situation on the ground remains dire and people should be under no illusions that the crisis is over," Obama said.

He said many Haitians were still in desperate need of shelter, food, and medicine, a situation that would only grow worse with the onset of spring rains.

"The challenge now is to prevent a second disaster, and that's why at this very moment, thousands of Americans, both civilian and military, remain on the scene at the invitation of the Haitian government," he said.

Preval praised the swiftness and size of the international response to the disaster and expressed gratitude to Obama for making the US rescue and relief effort a priority.

"I thank you not only for the material support but the moral support, the psychological support that made us know we were not alone,'' the Haitian leader said.

At the same time, he said, rebuilding must take place in a way that benefits the entire country, not just the most devastated areas.

He said spreading "health care, education and jobs for all men and women'' across Haiti would prevent "migratory flows to the big cities'' which produced the sprawling and poorly build slums of Port-au-Prince.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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