Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 16:26 UK

Time 'running out' for quake-hit Haiti orphans

By Andy Gallacher
BBC News, Port-au-Prince

An orphan in Haiti
Relief workers warn the rainy season is fast approaching

Billions of dollars in aid for Haiti are being pledged at a UN conference in New York, but the gesture is lost in the makeshift orphanages and camps near the capital Port-au-Prince.

In the barren windswept mountains a short drive from the capital Port-au-Prince, a tiny Haitian girl sings a hymn as she goes about her daily chores.

She, like many at the disaster recovery centre in Fond Parisien, only has one arm - but is incredibly lucky to be here.

The field hospital, run by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the Love A Child Foundation, has been singled out as one of the best facilities of its kind in Haiti.


Haiti field hospital faces closure unless it gets cash donations

Patients receive a level of care few would believe possible in such a rudimentary place; there are advanced prosthetic limbs, an operating theatre, and doctors from across the world, each experts in their own field.

'Bleak future'

Tiffany Fontonot has just returned to the hospital from the United States, still haunted by what she saw in Haiti in those first few days after January's earthquake.

Like all the specialists who volunteer their time, she uses her own money to travel to Haiti, even paying for food and accommodation at the camp.

The physical therapist from Louisiana said: "I got so excited to come back. Such a hopeful and grateful people like you couldn't do enough for them.

Some men, very bad and they sexually abuse children now in the camps everywhere in Port-au-Prince
Pastor Jean Guillaume

"Coming back and seeing everybody just so progressed from the first time, I go home in peace. It's like 'OK they're going to be good now'."

But the outlook for the facility is dire. Despite promises of funding and visits from various officials, no money has emerged.

Professor Gregg Greenough, who runs the camp, is afraid to tell his patients they may soon be told to leave.

"I cannot meet payroll, and I won't be able to keep the volunteers, and these are highly specialised people," he said.

"We will close and these patients will have nowhere to go. There is no other outlet for them."

When asked how that makes him feel, his answer is blunt. "Sick, really."

Close by, at another site, a group of children orphaned by the earthquake are setting up camp in a field next to a stream, using tents donated from the US.

Orphans in Haiti
January's quake left more than a million people homeless

Haitian pastor Jean Guillaume, who has taken many orphans into his home in Port-au-Prince, says his pleas for funding have fallen on deaf ears.

But he, like many others, was determined to get by regardless and wanted to remove the children from the capital as soon as possible.

The city, with its makeshifts camps and lack of security, has become a dangerous place for the young, he says.

"Some men, very bad and they sexually abuse children now in the camps everywhere in Port-au-Prince. That's why we came here with them to be away from that," the pastor said.

By the time the camp is established, there will be about 200 girls and boys living in the tents.

Mr Guillaume has plans to build some kind of temporary school house, but without money the children's future remains bleak.

The people of Haiti know that millions of dollars have been raised to help them and that billions more are being pledged.

But they feel abandoned and forgotten about. In the streets of Port-au-Prince there are signs that aid money is doing some good, but it is not nearly enough and time is running out.

The rainy season is fast approaching and there are still more than a million people sleeping on basketball courts and in riverbeds and hospital car parks beneath hastily constructed shelters and donated tents.

Those that realise leaders from across the world are discussing their fate in New York are sceptical - and they have good reason to be.

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