May 28 2008

Earthquake in China: Waiting for children to care for

28/05/2008 - More than two weeks after the devastating earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan, the SOS Children's Village in Chengdu is still waiting for children from the disaster area to care for.

Photo: Benno Neeleman
At the SOS Kindergarten in Chengdu - Photo: B. Neeleman
SOS Children's Village Chengdu is about 50 kilometres away from the disaster area. Just a few days after the quake, SOS Children's Villages produced an emergency plan, which the local authorities agreed to.

All the necessary preparations were made to take care of 100 orphans and children who have not yet been reunited with their families. So far, no children have reached the village, but the first are expected to arrive within the next few days.

At the moment, rescue and clearing work are still under way, and there is still no information on the whereabouts of the parents or relatives of many children. In disaster situations, it is particularly important to protect children who have no relatives with them, to establish what their situation is and who is taking care of them, and register them properly. The authorities estimate that 4,000 children lost their parents in the earthquake and many parents have lost their children.

After the devastating earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 it was also several weeks before the situation concerning care for orphans was clarified and children were taken into the care of SOS Children's Villages.

The SOS Children's Village Chengdu, which the May 12 earthquake has left largely unscathed (aside from a few minor damages to some of the buildings), organised about 50 young people and staff members. They have been helping out at the official centre for donations, sorting and distributing relief supplies and two of them are even directly involved in rescue activities. All the staff members and children at the SOS Children's Village have personally donated something to help the victims.

Following the aftershock warnings, about 400 people from the neighbourhood sought refuge on the safe premises of the SOS Children's Village between 19 and 21 May, where their immediate needs were tended to.