UNICEF mourns the death of 15 children in orphanage fire and calls for end of institutionalization in Haiti

14 February 2020

Port-au-Prince, Haiti 14 February 2020 - UNICEF is deeply saddened by the tragic death of 15 children in the Orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as a result of a fire on February 13, 2020. There are reports of infants, including babies, among the lost children. UNICEF expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the entire Haitian people.

UNICEF strongly condemns the opening of children’s homes, unaccredited, that fail to meet standards set by national authorities. According to article 2 of the decree of December 22, 1971, any children's home, public or private, secular or religious, to function, must have prior authorization from Haitian regulatory agency, Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR). In October 2018, a moratorium was adopted, to ban openings of new orphanages in Haiti.

According to IBESR, the orphanage was not accredited. In 2019, IBESR carried out a comprehensive assessment of 754 children's homes that shelter 25,800 children, and only 35 among them meet established standards of care. Children’s homes operating without accreditation must develop a plan for gradual closure for children to have access to adequate care.

“A child belongs to a family, to a community and should not be living in institutions without parental care,” said Maria-Luisa Fornara, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Guidelines on Alternative Care for Children indicate that sending children to institutions should always be the last option, a temporary measure and always for the shortest possible time. Haiti has already initiated a deinstitutionalization policy, and care reform plan is being developed and it emphasizes the prevention of family separation, the strengthening of the host family system and the acceleration of reunification children with their biological families.

IBSER has already deployed emergency aid to children, pending an assessment of the needs for comprehensive assistance, including psychosocial support. In collaboration with other partners, UNICEF is working to support IBESR and will continue to work alongside the Haitian authorities to give the necessary support to children in emergency situations.

Media contacts

Laurent Duvillier
Regional Chief of Communication
UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: + 507 3017393
Tel: + 507 6169 9886
Ndiaga Seck
Chief of Communication
Tel: +509 3744 6199


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/lac, www.unicef.org/haiti.

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