The Orphan Crisis in the Wake of Natural Disasters: Some Ethical and Legal Issues - the Case Study of ‘Haiti’

12 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2011

Date Written: February 8, 2011


In January 2010 the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti, many groups and agencies have scaled back their operations, continues to meet people’s needs. There were about 380,8000 orphaned children in Haiti before the earthquake. The Caribbean island, which has a population of about 10 million, may now have more than a million children without parents. Adoption agencies around the world have been flooded by enquiries from the public about adopting Haitian orphans. There are precedents such as the Kindertransport program during the World War-II, which saved 10,000 Jewish children by bringing them from Nazi Germany to Britain, the 2004 tsunami and the Kashmir earthquake in 2005. On the other side, children's advocacy groups warn against mass airlifts of youngsters overseas in the wake of natural disasters. While the adoptions are, based on valid concerns and come from obvious humanitarian efforts of many, adoption during times of national emergency can open the door for various unethical and illegal activities such as fraud, abuse and trafficking. A whole set of legal and ethical issues surrounding the disaster adoption, as well as the long-term psycho-social impact on young children are the main quest of this paper.

The paper proceeds with a combination of logical arguments by various agencies working on inter-country adoptions around the corner together with UNICEF polices and Hague Convention on adoption. International adoption may be the right solution sometime for a child, but far more often it is not, especially during the emergency phase, remains a constant argument. Many developing countries lack adequate foster-care facilities for homeless children. More research is imperative to accurately to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of interventions. It highlights the critical importance for special sets of codes of ethics, appropriate and clear legal polices to be developed for emergency situations.

Keywords: Orphan crisis, disaster adoption, disaster ethics, legal and ethical issues

JEL Classification: K19, K40, K49, Z00

Suggested Citation

Kumar, Rekha A., The Orphan Crisis in the Wake of Natural Disasters: Some Ethical and Legal Issues - the Case Study of ‘Haiti’ (February 8, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Rekha A. Kumar (Contact Author)

University of Botswana ( email )

Private Bag 0022
00267-71897131 (Phone)
00267-3554185 (Fax)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics