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Death of 41 Girls after Fire in Guatemalan Shelter Leads to Charges of Abuse and Neglect

LADB Article ID: 80284
Category/Department: Guatemala
Date: 2017-05-04
By: Louisa Reynolds

A fire in a state-run youth shelter that claimed the lives of 41 girls has brought to the fore allegations, previously ignored by Guatemalan authorities, that staff sexually assaulted and beat girls and boys at the Virgen de la Asunción shelter. It has also highlighted the broader issue of the lack of adequate facilities for vulnerable youths in the country. Nineteen teenage girls were killed in the March 8 blaze at the shelter, located in the municipality of San José Pinula, 25 km southeast of Guatemala City. Another 22 later died from severe burns and smoke inhalation. Run by armed security guards rather than experts on child welfare, the Virgen de la Asunción shelter was built in 2010 to house children and teenagers who had been living in four institutions where they had been separated by age and gender. The concept behind Virgen de la Asunción contravenes international regulations on child welfare, which recommend that wards of the state be housed in much smaller facilities in order to minimize the impact on their emotional and mental health. Around 700 minors were living in a place built for a maximum of 350.

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