Israel mulls adoption of Haiti quake orphans
VIDEO: IDF team pulls 22-year-old man from rubble 10 days after massive quake struck Caribbean country.
Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog has instructed the staff Social Affairs Ministry to look into the possibility of adopting Haitian children, orphaned in the devastating earthquake which hit the island almost two weeks ago, Israel Radio reported on Saturday.
The ministry's director-general Nachum Itzkovitz was instructed by Herzog to jointly inspect, together with Finance Ministry deputy director Rafi Barak, Israel's ability to legally adopt the orphans according to the relevant international treaties as well as to international adoption laws.
"We are proud that that Israel aided the horrible distress in Haiti and we have a moral obligation, as human beings, to aid these children," Herzog said.
"I consider [the adoption] a completion of Israel's humanitarian aid in Haiti," Herzog said.
"This is a great effort which aside from aiding the children will bring great joy to families that wish to adopt a destitute child," the Social Affairs minister added.
Herzog also said that Israel would work in "full cooperation with UNICEF to bring dozens of children, in line with the demand which our ministry has already noticed" from local families.
"We must be broad-hearted and understand that it is a beautiful act of mercy," Herzog said.
Israelis had reportedly contacted the Welfare Ministry over the course of the last week, inquiring as to the possibility of adopting Haitian orphans.
Herzog had contacted Israel's envoy to the Dominican Republic, Amos Radian, who is also in charge of relations with Haiti, and asked him to submit an official request in the matter.
It is estimated that, considering the political ramifications of the earthquake, an answer in the matter will arrive within a few weeks.
Aside from Israel, Haiti's authorities have also received adoption requests from Spain, the Netherlands, as well as from the United States.
Israel is a signatory to an international children's adoption treaty, with about 200 children adopted by Israeli families worldwide, through sevrn Social Affairs-ministry sanctioned groups.
The children arrive in Israel and undergo conversion to Judaism in specialized rabbinical courts.
The regulated maximal cost of such an adoption is 22,000 euros, with an optional 15 percent discount to low-income families.
Earlier Saturday, United Nations declared the search-and-rescue phase over for the survivors of the massive quake.
While the search-and-rescue phase was ending, humanitarian and relief efforts were still being ramped up, the UN added.
The Haitian government has confirmed 111,481 deaths from the quake, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its latest report on the relief effort.
Just hours before the UN announcement, an Israeli search team pulled a severely dehydrated 22-year-old man from the rubble of his bedroom a staggering 10 days after an earthquake levelled much of the Haitian capital.
Emmannuel Buso was so ghostly pale that rescuers said his mother thought he was a corpse. However, doctors found him in relatively good shape despite his ordeal and he is expected to make a full recovery.
Buso said from his bed in an Israel Defense Forces field hospital near Haiti's main airport that he survived by drinking his own urine and spent most of his time under the debris in a listless daze, at times dreaming of his mother and thinking that he had in fact died.
"I am here today because God wants it," Buso said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The Israeli team is one of a number of such groups that have been searching countless destroyed buildings in the tropical heat following the 7.0-magnitude quake Jan. 12.
Elsewhere Friday, an 84-year-old woman was said by relatives to have been pulled from the wreckage of her home, according to doctors administering oxygen and intravenous fluids to her at the General Hospital. Doctors said she was in critical condition.
The European Commission says international rescue crews have rescued more than 125 people since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck, but successes have grown increasingly rare as time passes. Much of the focus of the quake's aid workers has shifted to helping the hundreds of thousands of newly homeless in the impoverished nation and some rescue crews have started to depart because of the time since the quake.
The Israeli team has found four people alive. Their field hospital has treated more than 500 people and delivered 14 babies.
Maj. Amir Ben David, the head of the Israeli search-and-rescue team, said he has never seen anyone survive as long as Buso under such circumstances. He said the rescue is a reminder of the importance of continuing their efforts.
"This has given us a lot of hope that we can find more people," Ben David told AP. "We will keep going until the end of our mission."
Israeli searchers had been going through Port-au-Prince asking people if they knew of anyone who might be trapped. They encountered Buso's relatives, who thought he might still be alive.
They pulled away some debris, called out to him and, to everyone's surprise, he responded.
Buso, a slender student and tailor with deep-set eyes, said he had just come out of the shower when the quake hit.
"I felt the house dancing around me," he said from his bed, covered by a reflective heat blanket in the hospital field tent. "I didn't know if I was up or down."
He passed out and lay in a daze, dreaming at times that he could hear his mother crying. The furniture in his room had collapsed around him in such a way that it created a small space for him amid the ruins of the house. He had no food. When he got desperately thirsty, he drank his urine.
Capt. Kheir Ashraf, the doctor who treated Buso, said he has no doubts about the man was buried since the quake. But he also said Buso is in remarkably good health, all things considered.
"He is in good condition and he will recover," Ashraf said. "Listen, his laboratory exams are better than mine."