The devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12th has led to a series of efforts to speed the adoption process for orphans in Haiti. Some aid groups, however, have cautioned that a hasty process may not be in the best interests of the children and could open the door to child trafficking networks.
One issue revolves around knowing who is truly an orphan and who is not. Save the Children Chief Executive, Jasmine Whitbread, said that family members may still be alive and taking children out of the country would "permanently separate thousands of children from their families - a separation that would compound the acute trauma they are already suffering". Additionally, UNICEF spokesman, Christopher de Bono stated that it is not uncommon for Haitian parents to put their children in orphanages temporarily and, thus, finding out which children are in fact orphans requires great attention to detail and documents.
A second concern voiced by aid agencies is that moving children around without procedure in a time of national emergency can open the door to fraud and abuse, as trafficking networks take advantage of the weakness of local authorities and relief coordination. The UN's Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement saying that "[e]nslavement of children and trafficking were . existing problems, and could easily emerge as serious issues over the coming weeks and months."
Fears were raised as United Nations officials confirmed that around 15 children disappeared from a hospital in Haiti. UNICEF adviser Jean Luc Legrand said the situation was similar to the aftermath of the tsunami in Asia five years ago: "traffickers fish in pools of vulnerability. We know from past experience that trafficking happens in the chaos that usually follows emergencies."