Children affected by Myanmar cyclone need protection in a family environment
YANGON, 13 June 2008 — UNICEF welcomes the Myanmar government’s commitment to assist vulnerable children in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, particularly separated, unaccompanied or orphaned children.
Speaking at last week’s meeting for the Protection of Children and Women cluster, the Acting Director General of the Department of Social Welfare praised the collaboration of child protection actors focused on finding family based interim care solutions at a community level for these children. This builds upon the existing Programme of Co-operation between UNICEF and the Government of the Union of Myanmar which focuses on strengthening social welfare and child protection systems.
The priority is to provide interim care and support, while family tracing, reunification and reintegration can take place. For children, whose parents could not be immediately traced, and for orphaned children, it has been agreed that the best solution is to find alternative care arrangements in families within the child’s existing community. Children without parents are not automatically categorized as orphans as efforts should be made to trace the parents. “Separated” children are living with relatives while “unaccompanied” children are totally alone.
At this stage, the primary response for children completely alone should be to identify temporary foster arrangements within the child’s community until tracing efforts have been completed and if possible the child can be placed with close relatives. UNICEF also works with the Government and partners to identify longer term family placements for known orphans.
UNICEF, along with its partners, considers the institutionalization of children and the creation of orphanages as a last resort and has been working with the Government and child protection agencies to promote family and community based care solutions.
The case of children separated from their parents and communities during natural disasters merits special mention. It cannot be assumed that such children have neither living parents nor relatives. Even if both their parents are dead, there are still chances of finding living relatives, a community and home to return to. Thus, family tracing should be the priority.
Identification and registration of separated and unaccompanied children is ongoing in affected townships. In collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare, Myanmar Red Cross, UNICEF and child protection partners are registering children and will compile the numbers to have a more comprehensive picture. A national action plan for child protection in emergencies has also been developed. A taskforce, comprised of the Department of Social Welfare, UNICEF, Save the Children, World Vision, EMDH and other partners was formed to prepare this plan, which will also strengthen the protection of all children affected by the cyclone.
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