Keeping Children Safe from Exploitation Requires Action Now, UNICEF Says
LONDON, 8 January 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.
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 of good 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 labour 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.”
Coming soon: How getting schools open again protects children and helps them cope with trauma – an estimate of how many schools were destroyed and what it will take to get them open again, based on surveys now underway.
B-roll available on protective camps for children in Indonesia at http://www.newsmarket.com/unicef/
For interviews and other details, contact UNICEF press officers:
In Sri Lanka: Martin Dawes + 977 985 10 40961
In the Maldives: Binita Shah + 977 985 107 4260
In India: Corrine Woods + 91 981 86 49088
In Indonesia: John Budd + 62 811 936 437
In Bangkok: Shantha Bloemen + 66 1 906 0813
In Geneva: Damien Personnaz + 41 22 909 5716
Contact us: For interviews and details from the ground.
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