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UNICEF warns against potential exploitation of child earthquake survivors

ISLAMABAD, 17 October 2005 - In the aftermath of the earthquake many children have become separated from their caregivers. UNICEF has responded with concern to reports about children being taken from health facilities by individuals or NGOs, claiming to be able to look after them.

While in this difficult period following the devastating disaster which has hit Pakistan there are certainly many people acting out of the best intentions towards vulnerable children, there is also the possibility children could fall into the hands of unscrupulous individuals or groups.

UNICEF is vigorously encouraging the registration of all children at the time they are admitted to a public or private hospital. In addition children must not be discharged unless they are leaving in the company of genuine family members.
Additionally, during the period while this major influx of injured children continues, UNICEF requests the government to place Child Protection Officers in all major hospitals admitting child patients.

Often the response of those hearing about the suffering of children or seeing painful scenes on their television screens is to offer to adopt a child. “At this moment it’s just too soon to talk about adoption,” stated Omar Abdi, Representative, UNICEF Pakistan.

“Unaccompanied children who may be orphans are best looked after by the authorities who are equipped to attend to their needs. UNICEF is working through the government’s Ministry of Social Welfare and Child Protection whose officers will provide care for the children until every effort to try and trace their relatives and reunite them with their families has been exhausted,” he added.

UNICEF policy clearly states that children without caregivers must remain under the protection of the government until reunification with their families can take place. Only when it has been ascertained  their families are deceased can alternative forms of caregiving, such as fostering with relatives’ families, or adoption, be considered. And this is always done ensuring that the best interest of the child is taken into consideration is the primary consideration.

Finally, at this difficult moment in Pakistan, UNICEF takes this opportunity to call upon the Parliament to pass as rapidly as possible the comprehensive Child Protection Bill that is currently in draft form with the government.

For more information please call

Julia Spry-Leverton, UNICEF spokesperson: 0300 500 2595
Grodon Weiss, UNICEF New York,  Tel:  001  212 326 7426  gweiss@unicef.org





18 October 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on the effort to treat children injured in the earthquake.

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17 October 2005:
UNICEF Country Representative in Pakistan Omar Abdi says supplies are reaching children hit hard by the earthquake.

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