Children of the ENEPHA orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti, before eating a meal. Photo courtesy of Amos Sybrun

Amos Sybrun does not want the children to know what’s been going on. As the executive director of Kids of Hope of Haiti, an orphanage in Jacmel, Sybrun would prefer that its charges not wonder about their next meal.

But it’s easy to notice. There’s been less and less food on the children’s plates as the weeks progress. If it weren’t for donations from diasporas, the orphanage, known by its French acronym, ENEPHA, would be out of food by now. As of June 10, it had enough food for 13 days for the 38 children at the orphanage, Sybrun said. 

“To tell you the truth, I’m stressed out because we don’t know how we’re going to feed the kids,” Sybrun said. 

The lack of food stems from Haitian government requirements that ENEPHA has had difficulty meeting due to a lack of functioning offices and gang violence.

Since February, the orphanage has been trying to obtain food donated by Food For the Poor, Coconut Creek, Florida-based relief organization. But ENEPHA has not been able to renew their authorization letter to receive food this year. 

ENEPHA needs an authorization letter because they don’t have a license since they can’t afford a social worker. Proceeding without a license or authorization letter would have put both organizations out of compliance. 

Orphanages must renew licenses and authorization letters each year with the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR). 

Tausha Pearson, founder of Haiti Mama, a non-profit that works alongside IBESR to help children reunite with their parents, said being approved can be difficult because of poor experiences with orphanages.

“IBESR is being so careful because everyone does anything they want without any permission,” Pearson said. “[But] I think IBESR does need to get more organized with their system. They don’t make it clear to the organizations and orphanages exactly what needs to happen.”

In May, ENEPHA sent a letter of authorization from IBESR in the southeastern department to Food For The Poor. But the letter, signed by a local IBESR official, was not valid. It needed to be signed by IBESR’s General Director Arielle Villedrouin.

In June, Sybrun drove to the capital city, but couldn’t reach the IBESR office in Turgeau because of gang shootings in Martissant, which is on the way, rendered the roads impassable. 

Insecurity in Port-au-Prince, long an issue for ENEPHA, led to its move from Cabaret near the city to Jacmel for safety. In recent months, the insecurity has morphed into full-blown, nonstop violence carried out mostly by street gangs. 

Gang-led violence has caused all schools and businesses in Martissant to close in recent weeks. Very few vehicles are passing through and thousands of residents have fled their homes seeking safety. Hundreds have been living at a sports complex in Carrefour, all while Haiti faces a new wave of coronavirus that has also limited access to government offices.

For five days, Sybrun stayed with family in Port-au-Prince, trying to make it to IBESR in Turgeau. An IBESR official told him they weren’t going to open so he returned to Jacmel.

Sybrun is now waiting for southern Port-au-Prince to become safer to attempt the trip to the IBESR office.

“Port-au-Prince is a place I said I would never go again,” Sybrun said. “If that’s where I’m supposed to go for the children to have food, then I don’t have a choice.”

On June 10, Food For The Poor President Ed Raine said at a press conference that about 125 containers were en route to Haiti. He also said they will launch an emergency food appeal in the coming days. Raide didn’t specify who Food For The Poor made the appeal to.

“I just hope the government will make things easier so the children don’t have to suffer,” Sybrun said.

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Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining The Haitian Times in 2019.

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