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Haiti: Saïda has been found!

12-05-2010 Feature

During the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, Salvanie lost all trace of her nine-year-old daughter, Saïda. The girl had been pulled alive from the rubble of her school, taken to a hospital and then sent on to an unknown destination. Her desperate mother appealed to the ICRC and the Haitian Red Cross for help. Thanks to their efforts, little Saïda was finally found in Guadeloupe. More than three months after the earthquake, she was back in her mother's arms.

  See also:
Video: The search for Saida

  Feature: Tracing evacuated children in Haiti

©ICRC/O. Miltcheva / ht-e-00636 
Mother and daughter cannot hide their joy! 
©ICRC/O. Miltcheva / ht-e-00635 
Saïda with her mother, Salvanie, and her little sister, Cama-Lisa. 
©ICRC/O. Miltcheva /ht-e-00637 
A Haitian Red Cross volunteer and an ICRC delegate share the family's joy. 

Peals of laughter and joyful cries reverberated across the wooden bungalow where Saïda's family had been living since the earthquake destroyed their home. The little girl was once again romping around with her three-year-old sister, Cama-Lisa, while their mother looked on with a twinkle in her eye.

" Saïda has been home for a week now and we've been celebrating the entire time – the first evening, we sang and danced with our neighbours until two in the morning, " said Salvanie. " Nothing in the world could have made us happier than having our Saïda back. "

The face of the 46-year-old mother lit up when she described being told by the Red Cross that her daughter had been found. " The lady who called said that Saïda was already on a plane heading straight for Port-au-Prince. I was so overcome with joy that I started to tremble. "

A few hours later Salvanie was waiting quietly at the airport with an ICRC team, still in a state of disbelief... until Saïda ran up and threw herself into her mother's arms.

Avel Joseph, a Haitian Red Cross volunteer, said: " I've never been quite so moved by a meeting of this kind. The beaming faces of both mother and daughter made me more aware than ever of the importance of my work. "

 Long separation  


During her stay in Guadeloupe, Saïda was treated in a hospital and then taken in by a foster family. 

" Everyone w as kind to me, " she said. " The family that took care of me even gave me picture books. But I was so sad to be separated from my mama that I could hardly eat. "

Isabelle Jeanneret, head of the ICRC's family-links programme in Haiti, explains how the little girl was traced: " We tried every means of finding Saïda. Her name was broadcast daily on four radio stations in Port-au-Prince. We investigated the possibility of a medical evacuation abroad and considered submitting a tracing request to the National Societies of the countries concerned. In the end, we found Saïda's name on a list of children evacuated to the Antilles that had been provided to us by the French authorities. "

 I want to be a doctor  

A week after her return home, Saïda's head was swirling with projects. She was so eager to start school again that she couldn't wait for her injured foot to fully heal. " I want to catch up on everything I missed and work hard so that I can become a doctor and help other injured people. "

Salvanie is now looking for a school in which to enrol her daughter – but not just any school. After experiencing the trauma of being buried alive in the rubble of her old school, Saïda is afraid to go inside a cement building and wants to attended a tented school. Some scars left by the earthquake will take a long time to heal.