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g irl with no past - and no future

By unknown | Jan 28, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

PORT-AU-PRINCE - They don't know much more than her name: Jonata. She is three years old, has two siblings and she has been trying to reach them on her toy cellphone.

Nobody answers.

The toy phone was all she had, hanging around her neck, when she was rescued from the rubble six days after the quake that devastated Haiti.

Nothing more is known about her. Neither her full name, nor family or date of birth. She barely speaks and nobody is exactly sure where she was found, supposedly by United Nations peacekeepers from Peru.

The child has been passed from hand to hand in a camp of international volunteers near the Port-au-Prince airport. The first ones who cared for her have already left, their mission over.

Others came, and went. Now, she is in the charge of Michelle Laporte, a Canadian who is also preparing to leave.

"They found her very dehydrated six days after the quake, with only a bit of a skin rash.

"There were no other survivors where she was found. She is unhurt, but traumatised."

Jonata, in a white shirt, pink skirt and yellow slippers, sits next to a tent with a bag of lollipops. She carefully unwraps one after another, and places them on her skirt.

"She only wants to eat candy and drink Coca-Cola," French volunteer Maeva Gonzalez says. "The poor thing is in a state of shock. She asks for her mother."

The volunteers who care for her call her "the miracle girl". They think the best thing would be for someone to adopt her.

Nevertheless, both the Haitian government and the UN Children's Fund have ruled out such solutions because in the chaos wrought by the earthquake it is not possible to know if lost children still have families or not.

"How are we to know if she has relatives in all of this mess?" Laporte says. "She is a strong girl, has a lot of heart, and I think that's why she survived. There are thousands of families wanting to adopt, but it is a logistical problem when there are no documents."

It seems an impossible mission to find any living relatives. "Who is going to walk around this city searching for them? She needs a family, needs stability," Laporte says.

There is no authority in Haiti that can do what is necessary to give the little girl a past and a future. They can barely attend to the present: everywhere there is destruction and people desperately trying to go forward.

Laporte believes that Jonata will end up in an orphanage.

"It would be better if someone adopted her now," she insists, and tells the story of a Haitian woman who ran a home for orphans that collapsed, and now has 20 children in the back of her pickup truck going from camp to camp, seeking food and water. - Sapa-DPA


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