Haiti: 15 children killed in fire in an unlicensed orphanage

Burnt remains are seen in a room inside the orphanage of the Bible Church. Understanding of a fire that broke out the previous night in the Kenscoff area outside Port-au-Prince, February 14, 2020.Copyright of the image

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Fifteen children were killed in the blaze on Thursday evening

Fifteen children died in Haiti after a fire struck an orphanage on the outskirts of the capital.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, but reports citing staff and children said candles were used instead of electricity.

The orphanage, run by a Christian group based in the United States, was one of hundreds of Haiti that operated without official authorization.

Authorities are now working to support and host surviving children.

Arielle Jeanty Villedrouin, director of the Institute for Social Welfare, said that at the time of the fire, about 60 children lived in the unlicensed orphanage, managed by the Pennsylvania-based Church of Bible Understanding.

“We will position them [the survivors] in a transit center while we research their family and see if we can reunite them with their parents, “he told Reuters news agency.

The fire at the orphanage, located south of the capital Port-au-Prince, began on Thursday evening. Officials reported that two children were killed in the blaze and another 13 died in the hospital from smoke inhalation.

The candles had been lit on the night of the fire because the building’s generator was broken, according to reports.

Local judge Raymonde Jean Antoine told the AFP news agency that the orphanage has not been authorized to operate since 2013.

He said it did not meet basic standards, describing living conditions as “truly, truly neglected”.

“All we see are children who live like animals,” he said, adding that there were no fire extinguishers.

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Officials inspected the building on Friday

On its website, the Church of Bible Understanding claims to have opened its first orphanage in Haiti 40 years ago. The organization said that its “primary goal” was “to spread the gospel to all who receive it.”

He hasn’t commented on the fire yet.

About 30,000 children live in more than 760 orphanages in Haiti, of which 15% are officially registered, according to the charity organization Lumos, founded by the author JK Rowling and seeking to end the institutionalization of children.

It is estimated that 80% of children living in Haiti orphanages have at least one living parent.

Orphanages proliferated in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Poverty and lack of access to health care and education are among the reasons why children with living parents end up being hosted in them.

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