Germain in Haiti: The many orphans of Port-au-Prince

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Nurse Karen Whitten with an orphanKaren Whitten, an OR nurse with Team Broken Earth, embraces a young orphan in Port-au-Prince. (Anthony Germain/CBC)

[Anthony Germain is on a week-long assignment covering Team Broken Earth, a group of Newfoundland and Labrador nurses and doctors, in Haiti. Each day, Anthony will file observations of what he sees; you can hear his reports on the St. John’s Morning Show.]

Day 5

3:00 a.m., April 3, 2014. Emergency Room, Hospital Bernard Mevs.

As I prepare Wednesday to leave with a dozen or so Broken Earth team members to visit an orphanage, a man on a motorcycle arrives with a woman slumped behind him. Both sides of his beige shirt are covered in splotches of blood. The woman, in her mid-30s, has a bullet hole in her forehead above the right eye.

Haitian medics, along with some of the Newfoundland doctors and nurses, rush her inside the clinic. Technically, they keep her alive but in a vegetative state.

We get on the bus to the orphanage.

Anthony Germain with orphaned girl in Port-au-PrinceAnthony Germain noted that he cannot help but notice the distant, disconnected look in the faces of so many of the young children in Port-au-Prince. (CBC)

The Maison des Enfants de Dieux is a clean, Catholic compound with an open air church and a solid main central building with more rickety structures behind it. There are between 60 to 70 children here, with no parents. They range in age from infants to 12-year-olds.

When they turn 13, they are no longer allowed to stay.

I ask the dedicated staff, “Where do they go?”

Nobody can answer the question.

I take 10 paces into the main building and a small five-year old girl runs to me, grabs my hand and cries the words, “Pa Pa!” She is one of several dozen little children who rush our group, each child targets one of the very white visitors who have descended upon them.

Forcing that girl to release her grip on my hand so that I can get on with my interviews fills me with a disgust of my own making.

‘Practically orphaned’

With a population of almost 10 million, it is estimated that about 750,000 children here are orphans, or what demographers coldly label “practically orphaned.”

Male toddler at orphanage in Port-au-Prince April 2 2014A little boy is kept in a room with many other orphans who were born after the 2010 earthquake. (Anthony Germain/CBC)

Before the 2010 earthquake, it was about 350,000. I can tell from the ages of the children swarming around me that many were born after the quake.

For about an hour, medical staff with Team Broken Earth play and cuddle with the children. Soccer balls, too many candies and other gifts are given to the kids who, like ducks waiting to be fed bread crumbs in a park, gladly accept what’s offered.

Despite the physical beauty of these children who —to be clear — are very well taken care of, a horrible thought enters my mind: It’s like an animal shelter for humans.

Cameraman Keith Burgess shoots my standup, I do my interviews, I play soccer with the children and I then leave … just like everybody else.


When I started writing this item, the woman with the gunshot wound was being kept alive in the emergency room. I went there a few moments ago to see what the medical team was doing for her.

She’s dead.

I wonder: Did she have any children?

Pronounced deadHaitian medical staff pronounce the early-morning death today of a woman in her mid-30s, who was shot in the head. (Anthony Germain/CBC)


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