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Guatemala News

Capital: Guatemala City  •  Currency:  Quetzal  •  President:   Jimmy Morales •  Population: 16.17 million (2014) World Bank •  Country code‎: ‎+502

March 20, 2017

 

A Tragedy At A Children’s Home In Guatemala

 

On March 7th, a team from an international human-rights group arrived in Guatemala to evaluate state-run institutions for disabled people. One stop on their itinerary was the Hogar Seguro (Safe Home) Virgen de la Asunción, a shelter for indigent children, which had been the subject of reports about sexual abuse, violence and overcrowding. The team arrived too late. That night, a fire engulfed a girls’ dormitory, killing at least 40 adolescents and severely injuring a dozen.

 

A tragedy at Hogar Seguro was preordained. In interviews with survivors, the team from Disability Rights International (DRI) discovered that 800 children were crammed into a home built for 500. At least two staff members have been jailed for sexually abusing residents. Last year, 142 children ran away. Survivors said staff had locked around 60 girls in a room as punishment for a recent escape attempt; when the girls set mattresses ablaze to protest against their confinement, they were unable to get out.

 

Hogar Seguro is not an isolated case. The fire is “an indictment of the whole social-service system in Guatemala”, says Eric Rosenthal, DRI’s director. The group found violence, neglect and forced prostitution at several state-run institutions, including Federico Mora, a psychiatric institution for adults. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has ordered that institution to improve conditions.

 

The victims of the Hogar Seguro fire are among the 7,000 children who live in public and private institutions in Guatemala. Most are not orphans. They come from violent homes or from families that cannot afford to take care of them. The Guatemalan government spends the equivalent of 3.2% of GDP directly on children and adolescents, including on education. That is the lowest rate in Central America. The child-protection agency has a budget of just $2.5m to pay for state-run facilities, which house around 1,000 children, and for monitoring scores of privately run homes. These hold the bulk of children and vary greatly in quality. Even the best do not provide a healthy environment for children to grow up in, say children’s-rights advocates. They have long urged Guatemala to replace them with a system of foster care like that in other countries

 

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© Copyright 2017 to The Bilingual News | All Rights Reserved   |   Designed & Developed by The Bilingual News

 

E-mail: bilingualnews@gmail.com    •    1-800-256-8161