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January 10, 2005

How to Protect Children in the Tsunami Zone

January 9, 2005

Measures to protect children in the tsunami zone from exploitation, abuse, and criminal trafficking are needed immediately to prevent them from slipping between the cracks, UNICEF said today, outlining the key steps essential to protecting orphans and other vulnerable children.

"The good news is that most of the needed efforts are already underway," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "But we have to move fast," she added. "Those who would prey upon children in this chaotic environment are already at work."

UNICEF said the most vulnerable of the tsunami generation are those who have lost their parents or have been separated from their families. While no reliable figures yet exist, estimates based on the numbers of dead and displaced suggest there may be thousands of children across the region who fall into these categories. Surveys now underway will help identify the scope of the issue in the next week or so.

UNICEF said there are five key steps essential to keeping vulnerable children safe from exploitation in the immediate term.

-- Register all displaced children: UNICEF said that knowing which children are alone or possibly orphaned, and knowing exactly where they are, is the first critical step to protecting them. In India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia -- the hardest-hit of all the tsunami countries -- registration is underway. In Aceh, ground zero of the human catastrophe, five child-friendly registration centers in the camps are now open, and 15 more are planned for next week.

-- Provide immediate safe care: Children identified as unaccompanied or lost must be placed in the temporary care of adults accountable for their welfare. In displacement camps, separate child-friendly care centers for unaccompanied children may be established. Alternately, children may be placed in community-based children's homes until their families can be located. Such options have already been identified in each of the countries affected, though more may be needed.

-- Locate relatives: Registering children by name, address, community and birth date allows local and national authorities - working with NGOs - to trace and reunite family members pulled apart in the disaster but who survived. It also enables authorities to find members of extended family - aunts and uncles, grandparents, or older siblings.

-- Alert police and other authorities: UNICEF said it is essential to alert police, border patrols, teachers, health workers and others to the threat of child exploitation, and to enlist their support in protecting children. This process of public and institutional awareness is beginning to take place in the affected countries. In Sri Lanka, government and key partners, including UNICEF, have raised the issue in the media so that all Sri Lankans are aware of the need to look out for unaccompanied children. In Indonesia, police and port authorities have been put on special alert.

-- Special national measures: Concerned about the prospect of child trafficking from the tsunami zone, Indonesia put a temporary moratorium on children under 16 from Aceh traveling outside the country without a parent. The government also put a temporary moratorium on the adoption of children from Aceh until all children can be properly identified and a process of family tracing completed.

The international standard in a crisis is to keep children as close to their family members and community as possible, UNICEF noted. Staying with relatives in extended family units is generally a better solution than uprooting the child completely.

"Family and community provide vigilance and protection for children," Bellamy said. "With so many families torn apart, and so many communities completely destroyed, we have to pull together other kinds of protections for these youngsters. All people will have a role to play in looking out for the best interests of this tsunami generation."

UNICEF emphasized that child trafficking, sexual exploitation, and extreme child labor are nothing new. But it warned that the breakdown of institutions in wake of the December 26 tsunamis left an opening for unscrupulous and criminal exploitation of the most vulnerable.

She noted that the illicit trafficking of human beings is big business, not unlike trafficking in drugs or arms, with real money at stake and powerful interests involved.

"We have to want to protect children as much as others want to exploit them," Bellamy said. "Based on the quick response of governments to this threat, it's clear they want to provide that protection. But we have to do it together."

To Help Support UNICEF's Emergency Relief Efforts in South Asia, Please Visit http://www.unicefusa .org or Call 800-4UNICEF

Founded in 1946, UNICEF helps save, protect and improve the lives of children around the world through immunization, education, health care, nutrition, clean water, and sanitation. UNICEF is non-partisan and its cooperation is free of discrimination. In everything it does, the most disadvantaged children and the countries in greatest need have priority.

Posted by Nancy at 01:35 AM | Comments (0)

Child abuse prevention ideas aired

Teamwork: Task force says better coordination needed between state programs
January 7, 2005 {The Salt Lake Tribune]
By Kirsten Stewart

Utah's $350,000 Children's Trust Fund should become a statewide coordinator of child abuse prevention programs, which are now underfunded and working in isolation, a task force says.

The Utah Child Abuse Prevention Task Force supports legislation to infuse new life into the trust fund, which uses its state budget to distribute grants to public and private abuse prevention programs.

Sponsored by Clearfield Republican Rep. Paul Ray, a bill would create a board of directors to reorganize the trust, possibly as a nonprofit, so it can seek donations from private foundations and corporations.

If the bill passes, the goal is to double or triple the fund's reserves by year's end while placing 10 percent of all donations in an interest-accruing account.
The task force, created by former Gov. Olene Walker, created its still-developing plan after six months of research and advice from national experts. Its recommendations were unveiled Thursday.

"Child abuse is a major problem here," said Ed Clark, medical director at Primary Children's Medical Center, citing state statistics showing that child abuse cases in Utah rose 34 percent between 2000 to 2003.

"We pay for the harms of abuse with our tax dollars, health insurance premiums, lost productivity and reduced resources for other important services like education," said Clark, stressing that child abuse is preventable.

Task force members say there are promising prevention programs - parenting classes and crisis counseling - scattered throughout the state. The Children's Trust would work to improve coordination between these programs and state-run social services.

Sen. Chris Buttars also is sponsoring legislation to help abused children. The West Jordan Republican's bill proposes a $200,000 funding increase for Utah's 15 Children's Justice Centers, safe havens where abused children can file complaints with police and be linked with social services, physicians and mental health professionals.

The task force's call to community action - helping parents succeed at raising safe, healthy children - represents a reframing of the parental rights debate that consumed the Legislature last year. Task force members hope state officials are listening.

Lawmakers at the unveiling pledged their support, including Senate President John Valentine who said, "This report won't be one that goes in the garbage."

But details were scarce as to the state's commitment, partly because Utah's Human Services Department is in flux. Its eight-year director, Robin Arnold-Williams, has resigned, and Utah's new Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. might merge the agency with the Health Department.

Posted by Nancy at 01:14 AM | Comments (0)