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Type of document: News
Topic: Evaluation
Geographic descriptors: Pakistan
Language: English
Source: www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=49591&SelectRegion=Asia&SelectCountry=PAKISTAN
Date of publication: 17 October 2005
Long Abstract: PAKISTAN: UNICEF concerned over potential exploitation of child quake survivors

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

ISLAMABAD, 17 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has expressed concern over reports children separated from families and loved ones in the aftermath of the Pakistan earthquake are being taken from health facilities by individuals or nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) claiming to be able to care for them.

“We’re grateful the community has been vigilant in bringing such potential cases to our attention in which a child’s vulnerability, confusion and isolation might be taken advantage of,” UNICEF spokeswoman Julia Spry-Leverton said on Monday in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

“UNICEF is a champion of children. It is of critical importance to us that these types of situations are avoided and mechanisms are in place to control them,” she added.

Although many people were acting with the best of intentions towards children displaced by the devastating 8 October quake, there was also the potential for children to fall into the hands of unscrupulous individuals or groups, the children’s agency warned.

UNICEF was vigorously encouraging the registration of all children upon their admission to a public or private hospital, the agency said in a statement on Monday. Moreover, it said children should not be discharged unless in the company of bona fide family members.

The agency has also asked the Pakistan government to place child protection officers at all major hospitals admitting children.

In its statement, UNICEF also sought to discourage offers to adopt children who had lost family or loved ones in the disaster.

“At the moment it’s just too soon to talk about adoption,” said Omar Abdi, UNICEF’s country representative for Pakistan.

“Unaccompanied children who may be orphans are best looked after by the authorities who are equipped to attend to their needs,” Abdi said, adding UNICEF was working with the government’s Ministry of Social Welfare and Child Protection, whose officers would provide care for the children until every effort to locate family or loved ones was exhausted.

UNICEF policy states children without caregivers must remain under government protection until they can be reunited with their families. Only when it has been confirmed their families were deceased could alternative forms of caregiving, such as fostering or adoption, be considered.

Moreover, this is always done ensuring the best interests of the child are the primary consideration.

UNICEF has urged the Pakistan parliament to quickly pass the comprehensive child protection bill currently in draft form with the government.

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