Report says 225,000 Haiti children work as slaves

padfLogo_eThe Associated Press

Dec. 23, 2009, 8:59AM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Poverty has forced at least 225,000 children in Haiti’s cities into slavery as unpaid household servants, far more than previously thought, a report said Tuesday.

OASProud affiliate of the Organization of American States

The Pan American Development Foundation’s report also said some of those children — mostly young girls — suffer sexual, psychological and physical abuse while toiling in extreme hardship.

The report recommends Haiti’s government and international donors focus efforts on educating the poor and expanding social services such as shelters for girls, who make up an estimated two-thirds of the child servant population.

Young servants are known as “restavek” — Haitian Creole for “stays with” — and their plight is both widely known and a source of great shame in the Caribbean nation that was founded by a slave revolt more than 200 years ago.

Researchers said the practice is so common that almost half of 257 children interviewed in the sprawling Port-au-Prince shantytown of Cite Soleil were household slaves.

Most are sent by parents who cannot afford to care for them to families just slightly better off. Researchers found 11 percent of families that have a restavek have sent their own children into domestic servitude elsewhere.

Despite growing attention to the problem, researchers said their sources were unaware of any prosecutions of cases involving trafficking children or using them as unpaid servants in this deeply poor nation of more than 9 million people.

Glenn Smucker, one of the report’s authors and a cultural anthropologist known for extensive work on Haiti, said he believes the number of restavek children is increasing proportionally with the population of Port-au-Prince as more migrants flee rural poverty to live in the capital.

The researchers surveyed more than 1,400 random households in five Haitian urban areas in late 2007 and early 2008, with funding help from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The most widely used previous number for restaveks came from a 2002 UNICEF survey, which estimated there were 172,000.

The new report used a broader counting system to include children related to household owners but still living in servitude, such as nieces or cousins, and as well as “boarders” living temporarily with another family but are still forced to provide labor.

“Most people working with restavek children … think that these numbers, both ours and UNICEF’s, are actually underestimating the problem,” said Herve Razafimbahini, the Pan American Development Foundation’s program director in Haiti.

He called for Haitian officials to conduct a national survey to analyze the full scope of the problem, including in rural areas.

Officials with the Ministry of Social Affairs could not be reached for comment Tuesday.


Associated Press writers Evens Sanon reported this story from Port-Au-Prince and Jonathan M. Katz reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.


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Here is another expensive absurd report created by experts from outside Haiti.
I can remember one that was printed in The Lancet in which some lunatics claimed 30,000 ladies had been raped over a very short period of time. When the claim was challenged it was learned that one of the authors used a false name. There was no statistical evidence supporting the claim, but The Lancet stood behind the report and Haiti suffered another undeserved embarrassment.

This report on the restaveks is in the same category. My God, where do they pull the figure of 225,000 from??  It is really bizarre.

I don’t blame the folks from the Ministry of Social Affairs for avoiding comment on this article. To answer honestly would only upset the authors and their international agency.
The comment about not hearing of any prosecutions for using young people as unpaid servants really shows the authors of this study are not in touch with the Haitian reality. Someone takes a young person in and feeds them, buys them clothing, gives them a place to live and – in many cases pays for school.  The worst case scenario sees a starving child taken in and expected to work in return for food and a place to live. The authors of these absurd reports seem to apply American living standards to their criticisms of Haiti. They would rather see the child left to starve and then the statistics would balance in a more satisfactory manner.

Haiti is a marginal society in which everyone works very hard to keep their family alive. Small children walk large distances to carry water for their family’s daily needs. This is not torture, slavery, cruelty to children or abuse. It is more commonly known as SURVIVAL.

The absurdity of this entire concept is reflected in the claim that the entire fiasco is based upon door-to-door interviews with fewer than 1500 households.  Sort of a Gallop Poll with a clip board full of questions to be asked.  Of course, door-to-door suggests the people all have doors when a vast number live in perilous situations in which a roof can be a luxury item.  Haiti is an extremely complex culture with wide variations. The Port-au-Prince slums are not a mirror of Haiti in general.
Those questioned will never give a straight answer. That is not the nature of Haiti. They will say what they expect the poll taker wants to hear.

I  have taken children in and they have worked for their keep. Large communities become involved in food-for-work programs which are simply more sophisticated concepts in which one might see a lady in a dress  and no shoes carrying a huge rock on her head as she works on a road project. She does not feel put upon, being happy to contribute to the project, and get something to feed her family with.

Heaven protect Haiti from these foreign organizations that spend millions accumulating useless data. The money would be better spent on rice-and-beans for the children of Haiti, or drilling water wells so small kids don’t have to carry five gallons too far.

You must live in someone’s shoes before you criticize them. These foreigners with three meals a day, luxury hotel rooms, air-conditioned Land Cruisers and expensive interpreters cannot, and should not pass judgment upon the Haitian people.


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3 thoughts on “Report says 225,000 Haiti children work as slaves

  1. The UNICEF people are always popping up and people assume they are there for the children. Haiti has had its problems with UNICEF. Shortly after Jean-Claude Duvalier departed Haiti, in 1986, there was a scandal that saw a Haitian Consul in the Paris embassy accuse UNICEF people of shipping children to Europe, supposedly for adoption, when, in fact, they were simply a cheap way to send human organs. And then there was the UNICEF crowd in Belgium involved in child pornography.
    The idea of some bunch of non-Haitians trying to carry out a meaningful survey is beyond the ridiculous. Most of the coordinators of surveys do not speak Creole so everything is filtered through an intermediary who knows what they surveyor wants, and gives this to them.
    Results are meaningless and just create a bad image for Haiti. Haiti deserves better!

  2. It is December 24th, 2009 and most of the world is looking forward to Christmas. There is little for the poluation here to look forward to.

    I am in Haiti to help drill water wells.

    I have just driven through Petionville, what is always reported to be an up-scale suburb but which has absorbed several hundreds of thousands into hillside slums since Duvalier left and order broke down. As I crossed a small bridge, spanning a dried river bed, I looked down to see an entire family living there. All of their possessions were piled around them. Not a great volume. They had some tattered blankets for sleeping and a few pots that were sitting on a small fire. It was their meal. There was no roof, let alone a door for some sophisticated foreign poll taker to knock upon.

    This is the reality of Haiti today. If this family placed a child with a family that was slightly better off…this is not slavery…it is a small step upward. One must see what exists here now before believing the garbage peddled in this dumb study. I will try to take a photo so you can add it to your commenst. In this case, a photo is worth the entire foreign study.

    If it rains – and the forecast calls for heavy thundershowers on Christmas Day – this family will be in trouble. Someone may die.


    About PADF

    PADF, in the third year of a USAID-funded project called Protecting Human Rights in Haiti, is working in partnership with Haitian public institutions, NGOs and the private sector in support of shelters and integrated services for victims of trafficking and victims of violence, mainly women and girls who have been victims of rape, raising public awareness and conducting advocacy campaigns.

    PADF is an independent, non-profit organization that creates public-private partnerships to assist the least advantaged people in Latin America and the Caribbean. PADF creates economic opportunities, strengthens communities and prepares for and responds to natural disasters.

    PADF is based in Washington, D.C., with field offices in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is an affiliate of the Organization of American States (OAS). In the past year, more than 5.6 million people in 18 countries benefited from PADF and its programs. and

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