Fifteen children, including babies and toddlers, were killed in a fire at a Haitian orphanage ran by Pennsylvania-based nonprofit, Church of Bible Understanding, which also operates another orphanage in the country.
According to the Associated Press, the home had been burning candles due of generator issues. Worker Rose-Marie Louis told the AP the fire started around 9 p.m. Thursday and it took about 90 minutes for firefighters to arrive. The home is located outside of the Haitian capital, Port-Au-Prince.
Rescue workers arrived to the scene on motorcycles and didn’t have bottled oxygen or the ambulances needed to transport the children to the hospital, Jean-Francois Robenty, a civil protection official said. “They could have been saved. We didn’t have the equipment to save their lives.″
The home also did not have accreditation from Haitian authorities, according to a statement released by UNICEF. “UNICEF strongly condemns the opening of children’s homes, unaccredited, that fail to meet standards set by national authorities,” the United Nations agency said. The nonprofit reportedly lost accreditation for its homes beginning in 2012 after inspections revealed overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and a lack of trained staff.
According to CBS News, The Church of Bible Understanding operates two homes for almost 200 children in Haiti as part of a “Christian training program” and has operated in the country since 1977. It identifies the homes as orphanages but it is common in Haiti for impoverished parents to place their children in residential care centers, where they receive lodging and widely varying education for several years but are not technically orphans.