01/12/2005, 00.00
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Situation getting worse by the day for orphans

by Nirmala Carvalho
People from hardest-hit areas in 'Black Sunday' deplore attempts to snatch children left on their own.

Nagapattinam (AsiaNews) – The situation of tsunami orphans is getting worse by the day because of the constant presence of not always disinterested outsiders.

Eyewitnesses told AsiaNews stories about people approaching parents or the children themselves in refugee camps and villages in violation of Indian and international adoption laws.

A resident of Nagapattinam, a village in Tamil Nadu, said: "Some people coming from Salem, from Coimbatore, have demanded to take away the children. We do not let them go".

Two tsunami survivors, Parmeshwaram and his wife Chuamani, lost three children in the tragedy (more than a third of the dead were children). Currently, they are taking care of the others who survived.

Parmeshwaram explained that "in many cases there are economic motives behind this rush to adopt because the government is offering 500,000 rupees per orphan by way of compensation—around € 8700 euro or US$ 1150, a huge sum in a country where the average salary is around US$ 50. These children have already undergone one trauma and now uprooting them from their village, friends and community will be another traumatic experience. They must stay with their own culture, their own people".

An orphanage administrator in Nagapattinam said he was teaching the children about the different ways adults might "touch" them so that they can protect themselves against possible abuses and molestation.

Since the catastrophe killed thousands of people and left thousands of children orphan and homeless, demands for adoption are pouring into local orphanages but very few people truly understand the children's needs.

A counsellor at another orphanage in Tamil Nadu told AsiaNews that "there is a strong bond between these children. They all had the same traumatic experience but being with so many like them has helped cope with their situation. What's more, they are surrounded by people who speak their language, share their customs and know the same fears. In a strange way at least, the situation is helping them to verbalise their experiences and start the slow process of recovery".

A girl, who is now living at the orphanage, said: "Our relatives will never let us go. We want to stay with people we know. The orphanage is only a temporary arrangement as our relatives are also in relief camps . . . I'm sure they will look after me".

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See also
Adoption ban in Sri Lanka
Government and press against orphan trafficking
Rumours about children being kidnapped to get government money
Tsunami children find parents
Toll close to 100,000, 5 million displaced


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