Chinese earthquake parents panic over adoption fears

29 MAY 2008

The parents of children caught up in the China earthquake are desperately trying to search for their surviving children amid offers from around the world to adopt orphaned children.

British child protection experts, working for Save the Children, are reporting that thousands of poor migrant workers, forced to work hundred of miles away from their rural homes in China's industrial cities, have no idea whether their children are dead or, if they have survived, how to find them.

China has been inundated with offers to adopt newly orphaned children whose parents have been killed in the disaster.

"This is a chaotic situation," said Wyndham James, China country director for Save the Children. "It is vital that children are kept safe while their parents are searching for them. The government has announced that it will care for the children until things calm down, which we hope will give time for that to happen.

"It is important now to set up centres that can provide a safe place where the tracing work can begin so children and parents can be reunited. This is important for the children, but it's also hugely comforting for parents to know."

In China 210 million migrant workers seek better opportunities in the cities, the majority are under 35 and their school-age children are left behind.

Sixty per cent of migrant women leave their children with family back home. They send money to support the children but almost nine out of 10 mothers only get to see their children once or twice each year.

Wyndham James said: "At the best of times there are many left behind children cared for by older siblings or elderly grandparents. Our experience shows they may suffer poor physical care, malnutrition and problems at school. The government has launched a series of measures to help left behind children, but there's no quick fix to the problem." Those children who survived Monday's Wenchuan earthquake need their parents more than ever. And parents will need a lot of help to locate their children.

Save the Children is looking to see what help can be offered to the authorities and the local Red Cross, based on the organisation's experience of reuniting families in the Tsunami and in other disasters.

Save the Children is has launched an appeal for US$5 million (£2.5 million) to fund work assisting children affected by the China earthquake. To make a donation visit www.savethechildren.org.uk.

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