World Vision: 'Put Children First' in Haiti Relief Response

- Aid agency highlights children's unique needs in times of crisis

- Reunify children with families, provide basic services, protect them from abuse, says agency

- 'Child-Friendly Spaces' provide safe haven, protection for children

Jan 15, 2010, 19:35 ET from World Vision U.S.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- As government and international aid workers work tirelessly to rescue survivors and bring desperately needed supplies to those who lost homes, aid agency World Vision is calling for the Haitian government and others to give special attention to children who survived Tuesday's massive earthquake.

"In emergencies, children are often the predominant casualties," said Rory Anderson, World Vision's deputy director of advocacy and government relations.  "They're also vulnerable to neglect, abuse, discrimination and exploitation long after the ground stops shaking."

Because the earthquake hit at the end of the work day, most children were not with their parents.  Many are still looking for family members.

It's so easy for children to slip through the cracks when they don't have guardians taking care of them," said Anderson. "Even before the earthquake, Haitian children were vulnerable.  Despite improvements, Haiti still has the worst child health and education indicators in the Western hemisphere, and any children are already exploited as child laborers and restaveks (child slaves)."

At this point in the response, World Vision is urging relief workers to address children's most urgent needs:

  • reunification with their surviving family members
  • health care and basic services, and
  • protection from exploitation.

World Vision is preparing to establish "child-friendly spaces" in the quake zone as soon as the necessary supplies arrive in Haiti.  Child-friendly spaces are structured and safe areas set up specifically for children and youth in crisis situations, where they can play and receive support services.

Anderson says that, because children are so vulnerable, relief workers should prioritize their needs over other populations and ensure that they have priority access to food, safe water, shelter, and other basic supplies and services.

"Everyone involved in this response – from international aid groups to the Haitian government – must put children first," said Anderson. "Children and pregnant women should be first to receive every service that responders can offer. Often children – especially those without adults advocating for them – get the leftovers in relief responses.  That can be devastating for their long-term development."

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. For more information, please visit,

SOURCE World Vision U.S.