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Haiti earthquake: Parents try to shield children from the horrors

In the wake of last week's magnitude-7.0 earthquake that leveled Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, thousands of parents across this city are struggling to put on a brave face for the sake their children.

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Ana Dorval and her daughter adjust to life in a tent settlement in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, five days after a 7.0 earthquake.

Mary Knox Merrill / The Christian Science Monitor

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How can you give your seven-year old son a sense of safety when everything else has crumbled, literally, around him? When his house is gone, and maybe his brothers and sisters, too, and he is left sleeping on the ground with thousands of others who have no idea when, or if, they will ever return home?

For Blaise Mirlande Simon, it is as simple as singing to Medesedric when aftershocks from last week's magnitude-7.0 earthquake shake the earth, bringing back nightmares. A piece of their house fell upon him, and Medesedric now lies with his head bandaged, on a sidewalk outside a hotel in Port-au-Prince. “He is a good boy,” says his mother.

Ms. Simon is one of thousands of parents across this city who are struggling to put on a brave face for the sake of their children.

About half of Haiti´s population is estimated to be under age 18, and so hundreds of thousands of children have been affected by the earthquake. Certainly thousands of them died in the temblor. Thousands more are now orphans. Many sit, bandages on their tiny arms and legs, in makeshift hospitals, their mothers caring for them in the absence of hospital workers. Those unhurt have often found the security of their homes gone overnight, living in parks, and on sidewalks and plazas. Every single one of them will live with memories of Jan. 12 for the rest of their lives.

“He is so young, he does not know what happened,” says Ana Dorval, who had to move with her husband, mother, and two-year-old son Richey to the street after the earthquake. “But he can feel it.”

At their settlement, off a main street in Port-au-Prince, sounds are dominated by the shrill chorus of children´s voices. Younger ones play soccer in the street, teens sit around a radio and even scribble in notebooks. But their world is upside down.

“He is now suddenly around all of these people all the time,” says Ms. Dorval. They get up with the sun, and go down when it sets. There is no more structure to the day, as most sit on their blankets all day, chatting or napping, wondering what comes next.

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