wary of post-quake international adoptions
Children's Agency Also Begins Training Trauma Counsellors Today
From the field: More press releases
and information updated 20 June 2001
9 February 2001: The United Nations Children's Fund cautioned today
that international adoptions should serve only as a last resort for
children orphaned by the killer earthquake in Gujarat, saying that
unscrupulous child traffickers may try to pass themselves off as legitimate
agents of good.
Noting a flurry of news reports stating that children in Gujarat may
be the subject of international adoption efforts, the chief of UNICEF
in India said alternatives such as the extended family and friends in
the community must be given first priority.
"Well-meaning people around the world might think international
adoption is in the best interests of a child who has lost his or her
parents," said Maria Calivis, the UNICEF Representative in India.
"But adoption within the extended family or community is recognized
as the first and best option both by Indian and international law."
Calivis, who was in the quake zone earlier this week, added that adoption
elsewhere within India was the next best alternative. She emphasized
UNICEF does not support the institutionalization of children.
UNICEF said reliable figures on the number
of children who lost parents during the recent earthquake are not yet
available. At least one non-governmental relief group has estimated
the number of earthquake orphans at 7,000 to 8,000, but UNICEF said
that figure is probably high.
In the aftermath of the deadly cyclone in the Indian state of Orissa
in October 1999, a massive search identified some 1,500 unaccompanied
children. The death toll in that disaster, which left some 30,000 people
dead, is comparable to current estimates for the Gujarat earthquake.
Calivis said Indian law has exceptionally strong provisions for the
care and protection of children who have lost their parents. But she
noted that extended families and friends within the community must act
as the first defense against unscrupulous child traffickers who often
attempt to exploit unaccompanied children for profit.
UNICEF pointed out that the tradition of extended family and community
is strong in India, and particularly so in Gujarat. National and state
authorities, working with UNICEF and a number of local organizations,
are seeking to support that tradition as part of an overall quake relief
strategy for children, UNICEF said.
"UNICEF believes in adoption by caring families in appropriate
circumstances and in keeping with national and international law,"
Calivis said. "But hasty adoption efforts in the midst of an emergency
- any emergency - are not acceptable."
Training of Trauma Counsellors Begins Today
Ahmedabad: UNICEF experts in child psychology conducted the first in
a series of training sessions that will empower teachers and health
workers how to identify quake-related trauma in children and offer basic
Representatives of some 40 NGOs took part in the first training session.
They were trained to become trainers themselves, in turn to reach into
the worst-hit areas to teach local adults how to recognize and address
trauma in children.
"This is only a first step, but it's a very important first step,"
said Dr. Y.N. Mathur, the head of UNICEF's state office in Gujarat.
"Empowering adults to help the children around them is going to
speed everybody's recovery."
Mathur said that within days the trauma trainings would cascade into
even remote villages, providing teachers and health workers with an
invaluable new skill. UNICEF said plans were moving forward quickly
for the establishment of 300 temporary health centres and 350 "child
friendly spaces" in Kutch and other hard-hit districts. The child-friendly
spaces - with tents and school supplies provided by UNICEF - will serve
both as makeshift classrooms and as service centres for trauma counselling
and government outreach. The projects are being led by state government
with the support of UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, UNIFEM, ILO and dozens of NGOs.
* * *
There are many ways you can support these
important relief efforts. For links to online appeals by UNICEF National
Committees, visit our appeals
page. You can also make a general contribution through the Support
Read the 5 February
Press Release, the 29 January Emergency
Update and Press Release
or view the UNICEF public service announcement on India earthquake
* * *
For further information, please contact:
Hans Olsen, UNICEF Media, Geneva
Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media, New York
UNICEF continues its work in Gujarat
Thurs., 24 January 2002
In India, young earthquake
survivors return to school Thurs,14 June 2001
Immunizations begin in quake zone Tues, 13 February
UNICEF wary of post-quake international adoptions
Fri, 9 February 2001
Comments by Maria Calvis,
UNICEF, from Gujarat Tuesday, 6 February 2001
Half of all schools damaged or destroyed in
India quake zone Mon, 5 February 2001
Emergency Update, Monday,
29 January 2001
UNICEF delivers drugs to quake area, assesses
impact on children Mon, 29 Jan. 2001
On the ground in India, UNICEF responds to
quake Sat, 27 January 2001