|© International Development Law Organization|
|In Banda Aceh, a mobile court carries out hearings before awarding legal status to guardians or caregivers for children who were orphaned by the tsunami.|
By Ivy Susanti
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, 11 January 2008 ─ In 2004, Tibang Village in Banda Aceh was devastated by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Many children were orphaned in the disaster and have been living with relatives or extended families ever since.
In May 2007, UNICEF and their partner International Development Law Organization started working on improving the legal protection afforded to tsunami-affected children without parental care. Recently, eighteen Acehnese men and women gathered at their new community centre where they were declared legal guardians of children who lost their parents during the disaster. So far, 155 families have received proof of guardianship.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you have been entrusted with the noble task to take care of the orphans,” said judge Zubaedah Hanoum.
Judge Hanoum explained that legal guardians must honour their commitment to look after a child’s welfare by ensuring a good education and health care. For example, legal guardianship status permits an adult to access the child’s inheritance but a guardian could stand trial for suspected misuse of this wealth.
Many children still vulnerable
There are approximately 2,800 orphaned and vulnerable children which have been identified in Banda Aceh. More than 1,300 of have been reunited with their primary caregivers since 2004.
UNICEF’s partner, the International Development Law Organization, has trained guardians, caregivers and village leaders to protect children without parental care in the community.
Ainul Matdhiah has been caring for her 12-year-old niece, Miftahul Jinan, since she lost her parents and three siblings in the tsunami. Ms. Matdhiah attended a court hearing and was awarded guardianship status.
“I am pleased with this service,” Ms. Matdhiah said. “Most important of all, my husband is also sympathetic. He gives Miftahul the same treatment as our own five children. We will try to give her the best education we can afford.”
Together with the local authority and the other non-governmental organizations, UNICEF has drafted a child protection bylaw. When the bylaw takes effect in the future, Acehnese children who lost loved ones during the tsunami can rest assured that their rights are legally protected.
The tsunami, three years on