The Lost Children of Haiti

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

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

We've just come back from six weeks around Port-au-Prince with an American charity called the Global Orphan Project. The catastrophe may have largely dropped from the news but we found that the emergency is still unfolding as rescue workers race the clock to save the lost children of Haiti.

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

"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.