Not long after 14-year-old Daphne Joseph escaped her collapsed house on the day of the earthquake, she boarded a crowded jitney with her uncle and crawled in traffic toward the capital, where her single mother sold beauty products in the Tete Boeuf marketplace. “Mama,” she said she repeated to herself. “Mama, I’m coming.”
Abandoning the slow-moving jitney, Daphne, petite and delicate, got separated from her uncle and jumped onto a motorcycle-for-hire. She arrived alone at a marketplace in ruins and ran, in her dusty purple sandals, toward a pile of debris laced with “broken people,” she said.
Growing closer, she saw her mother, lifeless. She froze, she said, eventually watching as her mother’s body was dumped in a wheelbarrow and her only parent vanished into the chaos.
“I wanted to kill myself,” Daphne said in a whisper.
Haiti’s children, 45 percent of the population, are among the most disoriented and vulnerable of the survivors of the earthquake. By the many tens of thousands, they have lost their parents, their homes, their schools and their bearings. They have sustained head injuries and undergone amputations. They have slept on the street, foraged for food and suffered nightmares.
Two weeks after the earthquake, with the smell of death still fouling the air, children can be seen in every devastated corner resiliently kicking soccer balls, flying handmade kites, singing pop songs and ferreting out textbooks from the rubble of their schools. But as Haitian and international groups begin tending to the neediest among them, many children are clearly traumatized and at risk.
“There are health concerns, malnutrition concerns, psychosocial issues and, of course, we are concerned that unaccompanied children will be exploited by unscrupulous people who may wish to traffic them for adoption, for the sex trade or for domestic servitude,” said Kent Page, a spokesman for UNICEF.