The Lost Children of Haiti

Scott Pelley Reports on the Plight of the Most Vulnerable Victims of the Earthquake

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This story was originally published on March 21, 2010. It was updated on July 9, 2010.

Almost half of the victims of the earthquake in Haiti are under the age of 18, which means about half a million children were cast into the streets, into crowded orphanages or makeshift camps. Untold thousands of kids were separated from their families, threatened by hunger, disease, sexual assault and even a modern day slave trade.

This past winter, in the aftermath of the quake, "60 Minutes" spent six weeks around Port-au-Prince with an American charity called the Global Orphan Project.

We found an emergency that was still unfolding as rescue workers raced the clock to save the lost children of Haiti.

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Ten weeks after, Haitians walked an apocalyptic landscape. Many couldn't be certain of food or shelter. And for families with missing loved ones, it was impossible to know who was living and who was dead. Survivors have raised urban campsites of sticks and cloth and plastic. It was crowded; water and sanitation were poor.

When "60 Minutes" arrived in January, the Good Samaritan Orphanage outside Port-au-Prince was overwhelmed. Even before the earthquake, orphanages like this were common because desperate families often feel forced to abandon their children to the care of others. But, now, new arrivals were pouring in.

We found Moise Vaval and Joe Knittig of the Global Orphan Project as they rushed food and tents to desperate orphanages.

"One of them when we showed up the first time had one cup of flour and the children were asking their pastor, the caretaker, whether they were going to die," Knittig told correspondent Scott Pelley.

At a children's home, when the quake hit, the kids just happened to be in a prayer service under a mango tree. Their building crumbled. Global Orphan discovered the children, loaded up the survivors and checked them in to an emergency camp that it's set up outside the capital.

Moise Vaval is Global Orphan's country director and a Haitian pastor. While he was helping hundreds of orphans, we learned that he was also looking for his own missing son. Eight year old Jean-Mark didn't come home from school after the quake.

"Jean-Mark is a lovely child, a charming guy anybody who meets him man or woman you fall in love with him," Vaval told Pelley.

"You did something that I think is quite remarkable - you came back to work," Pelley pointed out.

"We are looking for one but there are hundreds here to care for," Vaval explained.

Vaval didn't know whether his boy was dead, injured or lost. We followed his search over the next six weeks, a search common to many thousands of Haitians.

"How is it possible to know how many lost children there are in Haiti now?" Pelley asked Marie de la Soudiere, who is responsible for UNICEF's program to unite lost children with their families.

"The answer is we don't know. We feel it's upwards of 50,000," she estimated.