Some 237 children ‘suspected of being trafficked’ after earthquake
Some 237 children are suspected of being trafficked after devastating earthquake of April 25 as they are missing since the natural disaster, according to a government body that monitors children's movement.
"The whereabouts of some 237 children – from Gorkha and Okhaldhunga districts – who had left their homes after the April 25 devastating earthquake is unknown," Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) – the government body that monitors the movement of children across the country – said, adding that some 215 children from Gorkha district and 22 from Okhaldhunga district are still unknown. "The board has not been able to trace some 215 children from Lho Monastery from Lho village in Gorkha."
Children and women are more vulnerable to trafficking due to the disaster, poverty and illiteracy. The police has also rescued some 195 children of Lho Monastery of Lho village in Gorkha from Thankot and Dhading on June 9, the board's director Dilli Ram Giri said briefing the media at a programme, ‘Separated, unaccompanied and other vulnerable children during disaster’, organised jointly by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Central Child Welfare Board and UNICEF, in Lalitpur today.
The children were travelling without the letter of Central Child Welfare Board's district office, which is mandatory in curbing child trafficking in the wake of the earthquake, he said, adding
that those 215 missing children from Gorkha also belonged to Lho Monastery.
Though, the monastery claimed that it had handed over children to their respective guardians in Gorkha, the status of 22 children from Okhaldhunga district is also unknown, Giri claimed.
Some 29 children from Okhaldhunga districts were placed at the Bal Mandir – a government child care centre in Kathmandu – by the board, he said, adding that of them 22 are missing. "The board has been able to trace only seven of children, who are studying in Kantipur School at Gokarna."
Nepal Children’s Organisation that operates Bal Mandhir wrote the board a letter informing that some 22 children have been reunited with their families, but the board's district office in Dolakha could not trace any of children, programme officer at the board Namuna Bhusal said. Bhusal has been looking after the cases of missing children. However, director of Nepal Children’s Organisation Chiranjibi Bhandari is maintaining silence over the issue.
Former district development committee (DDC) of Okhaldhunga chairman Mahesh Karmacha brought these children from Okhaldhunga to Kathmandu. But Karmacha claims that 16 children are studying in Kantipur School, seven are with their parents and only six, who had lost both their parents, are residing at Bal Mandir.
According to chief of Women and Children Department of Nepal Police, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Krishna Gautam said that child trafficking has increased significantly in the wake of earthquake, despite government monitoring.
Though there was no increase in overall crime rate, as was anticipated in the aftermath of the earthquake, a surge in human trafficking, kidnapping and black marketing was seen in the last one-and-a-half months.
Hundreds of children orphaned by the earthquakes have become more vulnerable to trafficking.
After the devastating earthquake on April 25, the authorities have rescued some 337 children from various parts of the country. The children were from the most earthquake-hit districts including Dhading, Dolakha, Kavre, Okhadhunga, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, and also Lamjung and Rukum.
However, the government warned of legal action against anyone involved in relocating children in the aftermath of the earthquake. Addressing the press, the officials said no one will be spared, if they are found guilty of relocating children by tempting them of education opportunity and better life.
"If any individual or an organisation tries to relocate children from one place to another, separating them from their family without permission from the government, they will be brought to book,” said chairperson of the board Dilli Ram Rimal.
According to the UNICEF and Child Welfare Board some 2,277 children died and 1,268 children injured in the earthquakes in 14 most affected districts, whereas police rescued some 49 children from Dhading district and two from Kavre district after the earthquake. "Some 48 children from Dhading and two from Kavre were reunited with their families," it said, adding that some 82 children lost their both parents while 427 others lost one of their parents in the quakes.
Fearing gross violation of child rights, trafficking, forced labour and abuses in the aftermath of the natural disasters, the board had earlier too issued a notice stating that no one will be allowed to relocate children from one district to another without prior permission from District Child Welfare Board.
Many a people and organisations have been trying to relocate children from the earthquake worst-hit districts by promising parents and children of good food, education, shelter and other facilities, but their hidden intention could be different, Rimal said, adding that the government has also stopped registration of new children’s homes and inter-country child adoption until further notice.
According to executive director of the board Tarak Dhital, some 82 children lost their both parents while 427 lost one of the parents in the earthquake.
There are already 600 children’s homes registered in the country and it is enough to adjust the children orphaned by the earthquake,” he said, emphasising on the need to reintegrate the children orphaned by the earthquake with their community and relatives, instead of shifting them to a new orphanage.
The children are already traumatised by the earthquakes and loss of their parents. "If they are taken to an unknown place with strangers in such situation, the level of trauma would only increase, he added. "Therefore, family reunion or support to family to nurture such children will be more fruitful instead of keeping them in the orphanages, which should be the last option."
Speaking at the programme, UNICEF Nepal representative Tamoo Hozumi warned that there has been a substantial increase in the cases of violence of women and children immediately after earthquake. "There is a surge in the cases of children and women trafficking due to various reasons like poverty, lack of resources, ignorance and others that are allowing traffickers to identify the most vulnerable children and women for trafficking and other purposes,” he added.
According to police data, incidents of human trafficking have increased by 50 per cent after the quakes. The law enforcement agency registered as many as 15 cases of human trafficking during the period of mid-April to mid-May, after the devastating earthquake on April 25, compared to 10 cases between mid-March and mid-April.
Police also informed that cases of trafficking in women and girls have surged after the earthquake. "We have increased vigilance in earthquake-affected areas, makeshift camps, transportation system and border areas to curb the crime," police officials said, they have been thoroughly monitoring ‘rescue and rehabilitation’ process to check the trafficking.