Indonesian children affected by Sulawesi tsunami vulnerable to child traffickers, World Vision warns
CHILDREN left homeless or orphaned after Sulawesi’s devastating tsunami are at risk of being preyed upon by child traffickers, an Australian aid agency warns.
World Vision is doing everything it can to stop any opportunistic predators, by educating parents and registering and tracking children in temporary shelter camps, chief executive Tim Costello says.
Families have been alerted to beware of potential ‘red flags’ such as relatives or friends from distant cities or villages offering to care for children.
“We have no doubt this awareness has certainly saved a number of kids,” Mr Costello said from Indonesia on Monday.
“Most people show solidarity and decency, but a small number take advantage of chaos for their own personal evil.”
Mr Costello says aid organisations have learnt to set up prevention measures from the spike in trafficking incidents following the Boxing Day tsunami in Aceh in 2006.
World Vision has set up ‘child safety spaces’ near temporary camps in an effort to register, supervise and support children traumatised, first by an earthquake, then the tsunami and ongoing aftershocks.
“These spaces help provide reassurance you can trust the world, which is very hard when you can’t trust the very ground you stand on,” Mr Costello adds.
“Essentially it’s a place where parents don’t have to worry about the safety of their children, instead of leaving them out in the open and exposed to potential threats like child trafficking,” World Vision staffer Brianna Piazza says.
Adding to security concerns, hundreds of inmates have escaped a prison damaged in the twin disasters, and many remain on the run.
Meanwhile, World Vision’s hunt continues for hundreds of missing children sponsored by Australians through their organisation.
“Locals say a landslip led to a whole bunch of mud flowing through the area (in Jono Oge) , and we think there might potentially be dozens of children buried underneath the mud with their families,” Ms Piazza says.
Aid efforts are being spearheaded by the International Red Cross, who estimate up to a quarter of a million people have been left homeless by the disaster.