The recent terrible earthquake in Nepal has exacted a toll on human lives which has triggered an overwhelming rush of support and offers of help from outside the country. It has also, naturally, meant a focus upon the children of the country, particularly those who have been most affected by the tragedy, through injury or death of their caregivers. Within Nepal, agencies who have been working within the country for many years and understand the dynamics of the human trafficking/orphanage business that is prevalent there are raising real concerns about an emerging crisis… a crisis where already vulnerable children will be placed at further risk.
Martin Punaks is the Kathmandu-based Country Director of Next Generation Nepal (‘Bringing Home The Lost Children Of Nepal’), and he outlined his concerns to us over the situation, and also the practical ways in which people can help.
“Since the civil war in Nepal, traffickers have preyed on vulnerable families in rural areas, offering their children safety and an education in boarding schools or children’s homes in Kathmandu. In practice the children have been used as poverty commodities to raise money from well-meaning but naïve donors and volunteers who support these ‘orphanages’ in the misplaced belief they are helping genuine orphans, or at least children who have no other choice than to be there. We are now deeply concerned that the earthquake will accelerate this trend beyond our worst nightmares. Aid money is flooding in to the country, children’s homes are offering hundreds of more places for children, and not enough is being done in the rural areas to stop the flow of children away from their families into profit making orphanages. Next Generation Nepal is doing what it can to try and establish our own “gate-keeping project” in the worst affected district of Sindhupalchowk – this will warn families about the dangers of trafficking, and reunify displaced children. But the odds are stacked against us. We would ask people to consider carefully before volunteering or donating funds to a post-earthquake Nepali children’s homes in Kathmandu. Without realizing it, such support may be indirectly harming children. If people want to help the Nepal relief effort, they should donate funds to reputable relief and development agencies which rebuild damaged rural communities and economies, and keep children and families together.”