Haiti's child welfare system was broken before the earthquake struck. But as the quake shattered homes and drove hundreds of thousands of people into the streets, the number of children needing care grew exponentially.
The authorities fear that some less scrupulous orphanages are taking advantage of the chaos to round up children in crisis and offer them for sale as servants and sex slaves.
Last weekend 10 Americans were caught trying to leave the country with 33 Haitian children. While there is no evidence that they intended any harm, the ease with which they scooped up a busload of children without documents exposed gaps in the system’s safeguards.
“This has called the world’s attention because it is the first clear piece of evidence that our fears have come true,” said Patricia Vargas, the regional coordinator for SOS Children’s Villages, which provides services to abandoned children around the world.
“Our concern as an organisation is how many other cases are out there that we are not aware of,” she added.