Adopting a child from the Central African Republic (CAR) is challenging, no doubt, but it is one of the very few ways to help the children who are in the middle of conflict.
An elderly woman, Pierrette, is running an orphanage in this war ravaged part of the country, taking in children of all ages in Bangui, in an effort to provide a safe haven for the children who have lost just about everything.
The weeks of inter-religious conflicts and violence, have left many children without parents, homes or food.
"There is nobody to count on… Parents, save us,” sang a choir of some 30 children for visitors to their makeshift home. Each of the youngsters came from an urban battleground in which Christian vigilantes took up arms to fight rogue Muslim rebels. And violence continues even after the exile of Michel Djotodia, the President of the Central African Republic who reigned from 2013 to 2014.
A little girl, Mercia, looked a little lost during the chorus and probably has difficulty remembering being held and loved by Laure, a French woman who wants to adopt her and is waiting for her in France. "I was able to see her during a single stay in Bangui last October," Laure, 37, told AFP by telephone, already speaking of Mercia as "my daughter" in spite of the many obstacles ahead.
Laure, a single mother is fully aware of the situation in CAR, "the procedure will be long. Perhaps we can hope that she will be here in 2014, but the main thing is that she arrives someday."
Mercia's father is unknown and her mother, a prostitute who has disappeared. Two year old Mercia was saved from militias who committed atrocities against civilians and have in the past, deliberately targeted children, as per the United Nations and aid workers.
Every child in Pierrette's orphanage is victim to a food crisis that has developed in Bangui. Many have tragic backgrounds, Pierrette told AFP. "Little Omega's father had his throat cut and her mother went mad," she said, gently stroking the head of another small girl. And a little boy of three years old had only weighed eight kilograms when she took him in.
In the little shack that houses all of these wayward children, Pierrette does her best to help, but everything is difficult and she has no income and no medicine, without counting the chaos of "the outside world". During the battles, stray bullets have found their way to the makeshift orphanage, luckily without casualty. "When it's like that, when there's shooting, there's nothing we can do but pray with the children," Pierrette said, still smiling.
Adoption seems to be the only relief for these children.
However, adoption challenges exist, as Laure found, as it is extremely difficult to carry out the required administrative inquiries and paperwork for adoptions.
"The mixture between adoption and humanitarian aid is never a solution to consider, especially with the essential checks (concerning) the actual adoptable children," warns the Movement for Adoption Without Borders (MASF), in a recent statement. "It is unfortunately common in situations of conflict or humanitarian emergency to see attempts to adopt engaged in defiance of the most elementary rules of international law of the child," said MASF, which has member associations on several continents.
Laure has not given up hope, however. "I hope to go back in March. I am terribly worried because I know that the lives of these children hang by a thread," she said.