On Air: How best to take care of the children after a natural disaster ?

Have a look at this ; “tips on how to adopt a quake orphan” from the China Daily.  And this, from AP, on the new orphanages being set up in Burma for some of the estimated half a million children who need help.

 There are the basic needs, like food and water and shelter. And the longer term needs, like psychological help, a new “family” structure, education.

According to this  article about Burma ….:”The children witnessed “unimaginable horrors such as losing loved ones and having to flee their homes,” according to Samson Jeyakumar, U.S.-based World Vision‘s child protection specialist”

While in China, this story quotes a local official talking about getting kids to school as soon as possible :

“The most important thing is to return some semblance of normalcy to the kids’ lives… we don’t want them to feel like they’re refugees, but like they’ve simply moved to another place for a sort of extended holiday”

What’s best ?

28 Responses to “On Air: How best to take care of the children after a natural disaster ?”

  1. May 21, 2008 at 14:55

    In a catastrophe, resulting from natural disasters or wars, children are the most vulnerable; especially, when they are orphaned and left without relatives to take care of them.

    Concerning the situation in Burma and China, each should be considered differently. In Burma, the government is to a large extent responsible for the misery of children there. It refused all sorts of help from “unfriendly” donors, especially the West, which it regards with suspicion. The military junta there preferred to see people of all ages suffer rather than open its seclusive country to foreign aid workers. Perhaps their human actions will be contrasted with the brutal treatment of the military regime by the affected people.

    China has the responsibility to take care of orphaned children because of its birth control policy that has reduced the members of each family. Each family has the right to only one child, which means orphaned children can’t have a grown-up brother or sister to turn to. This catastrophe is a test for the Popular Republic of China to show that it can really care for all its population, especially in hard times like these.

    On the whole, children, orphaned or having witnessed horror, need support to overcome the trauma experienced in their tender years. They shouldn’t be left alone, the victims of an experience that can accompany them for the rest of their lives.

    Children of this kind having become familless should be adopted by the whole society that should cater for them by sheltering them in decent homes, and providing them with special education to face life when adults. They can also be adopted by other families. For them, unlike adults, they don’t need just material aid to survive, but also psychological support to feel they have a new life for better after having experienced the worst.

    It is also the responsibility of the international and local aid agencies to closely follow their needs. The natural disaster may be over. The land it destroyed can be rebuilt easily. But to rebuild a shattered life needs to be done piece by piece without neglecting any essential side.

  2. May 21, 2008 at 16:12

    It is best that when they get foster out or adopted they don’t suffer from culture shock unless they are infants.

  3. 3 Zak
    May 21, 2008 at 17:00

    In all villages for all time the most effective societies have been led by adults who take over for the absence of other parents. That way a continuity for the child exists and hopefully their childhood can progress unhindered. Natural disasters are unavoidable so children can understand that loss. Especially under the shadow of an oppressive regime it’s up to leaders to reunite their villages with the children – not the other way around because the government is clearly reticent in the lingering damage. In this way it will force a rebirth and ultimately an overhaul of the countries governance.

  4. 4 eric
    May 21, 2008 at 18:07

    i saw the report on bbc news about the orphaned children in china. it made me weep. honestly, i hope the people in those countries can take care of them. perhaps the adults who have lost their children in those disasters can adopt the orphans.

  5. May 21, 2008 at 18:20

    I don’t think the BURMESE MILITARY JUNTA are ready to cater for hurricane orphans because they are denying them basic foreign AID.

    Muhammed in Ghana

  6. 6 gary
    May 21, 2008 at 18:20

    The best child care is quick, local, loving and nuturing. They’ve had the loss, they’ll need to grieve. Mothers, fathers and children cannot be replaced; but their functions can be filled by others. Maybe children who’ve lost parents need parents who’ve lost children?

  7. 7 karnie Sharp
    May 21, 2008 at 18:27

    Traditional societies rely on own family support and own communities to gather round and be there, they do not need alien support from western societies where the family network and community support is all but fractured.

    Rory in Oman

  8. 8 Mark Sandell
    May 21, 2008 at 18:29

    Rory in Oman by e-mail :
    “tradional societies rely on own family support and own communities to gather round and be there, they do not need alien support from western societies where the family network and community support is all but fractured.

  9. May 21, 2008 at 18:36

    Whilst you cannot say that one specific approach or treatment for trauma is the key model to export across different regions, there are fundamental aspects in dealing with trauma. These can apply as there are basic, underlying aspects to human reaction to trauma which applies to all people regardless of culture or region.

    Andrew in Australia

  10. May 21, 2008 at 18:37

    Why does the West consider it’s ways and means to be superior. Who’s to say the Chinese social structure and support systems wouldn’t manage better?

    Anonymous text

  11. May 21, 2008 at 18:42

    I totally agree that they need no professionals. Most of them are going through are normal reactions, but what specialists tend to do is to diagnose a disease. I think the efforts should be focus on family reunification. People recover from those traumatic experiences in the family and in the community they live. They do not need to be treated as someone with a disease.

    Clara listening in Cleveland

  12. May 21, 2008 at 18:45

    Taking care of children — and every other person of foreign nation — during a natural disaster is always frustrating by the actions of terrorist and globalist governments that take advantage of such misfortunes to push and impose a form of government, economics, food, cultural practice, or secularist beliefs and values that suit them or achieve their interests on the people at the neglect of the imperative of moral, humanitarian and humanistic services.

    Prince in Lagos, Nigeria

  13. May 21, 2008 at 18:48

    It’s not necessarily the immediacy of the disaster when the mental health support for children is needed, it’s in the weeks, months and even years afterward when PTSD and related issues erupt, that the care must be available. Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina, we are still seeing new patients (children) arriving with behavioral health issues directly related to their personal experience during the hurricane. The idea espoused by your guest that mental health treatment is strictly a western concept and you don’t need to treat kids for it, they’ll get over the trauma, is ignorance at its best.

    Stewart in Los Angeles

  14. May 21, 2008 at 18:52

    While it is a noble gesture to make offers of adoption, you would think that the last thing a child needs who has suffered a natural disaster, lost their homes, their friends and possibly their parents is to be uprooted from what little they have left that is familiar to them and transplanted into a foreign environment

    Serina Tang


  15. May 21, 2008 at 18:58

    The second best place to identify children with problems is that environment in which they spend the most time – school.

    Stewart in Los Angeles

  16. 16 Will Rhodes
    May 21, 2008 at 19:03

    Firstly they need the basic necessities of life, food, water, shelter – the loving care can come very quickly afterwards but they need those things first.

    They need to be out of the danger zone ASAP so the other adults who need to work at getting survivors out have the space and peace of mind to do so.

    It would be hell to administer but it needs to be done – with external help in needs be!

  17. May 21, 2008 at 19:37

    It is indeed a pathetic situation. We must encourage the Chinese government to establish adequate orpahnages with the assistance of other countries and arrange to look after the children.Further the government should coxe the parents o who have lost their children in the quake to live in the orphanages and be foster parents. This may be mutually benificial.Of course the parents who may voluntere should be paid and looked after by the state.This may mitigate the situation, but no body can really replace the parents.
    The orphans ,where ever necessary, should be given additional facilities in schools both for the education and extra carricular activities.

  18. May 21, 2008 at 20:30

    Hi WHYSers!

    I think the matter of how to care for children, whether during a disaster or not is such an important responsibility! However, in the case of those orphaned by natural disasters I think it is a good thing to try and make them feel as “natural” as possible, though it is doubtful if that is truly achievable after the devastation of a huricane/ earthquake.

    Still, I am also convinced that some amount of professional intervention would also be a useful way to supplement the suggestion that children be allowed to return to environments that are familiar to them. Indeed, this might prove a necessity in terms of answering questions about their parents, whose absence they will, no doubt, become aware of over time.

    What all this means, that in both Burma and China, it cannot be “business as usual”. The “aid” delivery process has to also recognise these needs which go beyond merely the question of physical needs to include emotional and psychological ones, as well.

  19. May 21, 2008 at 20:40

    I also think the need for the expansion of orphanage services is absolutely critical in both cases. However, I wonder about that in the case of the Burmese government who has been refusing assistance for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps as part of its international agreements China and Burma might be held to accountability in terms of the provision of services of this kind, going forward?…Just a thought.

    Still, this seems like a political fix to what is a clearly also a social issue. Support has to also be mobilised in terms of actual on ground solutions in the case of people directly impacted by the disasters like the reconstitution of family structures and support networks. Of course, proper government coordination and the release of timely and accurate information is also crucial under these circumstances.

  20. 20 Dennis :)
    May 22, 2008 at 05:57

    I think that in this case, China earthquake:

    Kids(children) should be given custody to the next of kin, grandparents, aunts & uncles and other family members.

    if that is not availble, then put them up for adoptions.

    Dennis~Madrid, U.S.A.

  21. 21 Stephanie
    May 22, 2008 at 12:05

    As someone who is unable to have children, and who realistically cannot afford the adoption process, I’d give my left arm to take an orphaned child from China. I understand the desire to protect a child from culture-shock; and all other trauma from the consequences of this quake, but hard times require desperate measures, and if the children go to loving homes no matter where in the world; the impact would be minimized if they are loved and protected, and given the means to work with the emotional backlash of their experience. If they are thrown into state programs that can’t give them the individual attention they really need, then how is that better than being adopted out internationally?

  22. 22 Robert
    May 22, 2008 at 13:17

    Personally I think that it is the youngest of the children are the worst affected by a natural disasters. This is because the youngsters may have lost there parents because of the disaster.

    Stage 1

    I would encourage the remaining adults in the community who are able to talk to the children and see if what they are worried about.

    Stage 2

    I would send in the non govermental agencies and then they can start the rehabilitation process for the children which is almost certainly going to be a lengthy process



  23. 23 Ahmad Hammad
    May 22, 2008 at 13:34

    When a massive earthquake jolted the northern areas of Pakistan back in 2005, there were a lot such orphan children who were left to the mercy of the then Government. After food and shelter, there was another threat which simply horrified the authorities that the left-over children especially the girls would be adopted by the criminals in disguise. Therefore, though too late, the government banned anyone from adopting an affected child. It was a good step. I probably had helped save a lot children from going to wrong hands and becoming criminals in the end.

    The Chinese and the Burmese should also take this path.

    But, the sad aspect of this move is; none knows of those children now. The society very soon forgets such children.

    I think alongwith setting up the Crisis Management Cells, the government should set up some children rehabilitation and trauma centers in natural disaster prone countries. And also, the NOGs should come forward!

  24. May 22, 2008 at 16:49


    I agree with your last point about governments should set up some children rehabilitation and trauma centers in natural disaster prone countries as well as that these children are soon forgotten (after the news crews leave and attentions shift elsewhere). This is a very sad truth, indeed. From where I sit, Governments should be mandated to set up effective child care and disaster relief agencies as a natural and logical part of the requirements of modern governance. That means to the extent that children will be impacted in natural disasters, in any country, there is a clear need for a policy which outlines a very clear plan of action along with the allocation of requisite resources.

    I certainly empathise with Stephanie and her plight. Perhaps this my might be one of the suggested courses of action for the Burmese and Chinese governments. Governments have to become very savvy and flexible under such circumstances. Natural disasters often dislocate social and other support services in a country and, therefore, even the best made plans can fail.

    However, we have to be receptive to the idea that young children are amongst the most vulnerable victims of such disasters and must act, accordingly. I am all for adoptions in cases where there is some amount of trust that the homes that the children will go into will not further their trauma. I also believe in monitored caregiving in the case of state run facilities and foster parenting. It seems the only logical, if not compassionate thing to do under the circumstances.

  25. 25 belinda
    May 22, 2008 at 17:14

    i think its best that children who have suffered such disasters should be given the utmost care especially by surviving relatives.

  26. 26 PAT
    May 26, 2008 at 02:22

    children are the future and a blessing. i am sure that the chinese people are able to take care of the orphans of the quake.
    as for the burmese they have not cared for their population in the last 30 years so what is different now!
    The biggest concern re burma has to be that they do not use international aid to bolster regime the famine Which is to come.

    From the generals point of view given the devistation to the rice harvest the death of thousands of peasants can only mean less mouths to feed.
    it is the responsibility of the world community to protect these people, sadly the un is .as with sudan is unlikely to make areal difference and the only countries that could are castrated by political correctness.

  27. 27 mavis mcalear
    May 26, 2008 at 11:00

    One wonders what the criteria for reporting events around the world is, I know that this week there has been an earthquake in Columbia South America, and not a word has been reported anywhere.I know that peop[le only think of drugs when talking about that part of the world, but my son lives down in the most southern part in the jungle and takes lots of tourists on jungle trips.He is home until 27th June and if he hadnot been, I and many other mothers would not have known. In solihull where I live There is one other mother who’s son is out there he is the editor of the local newspaper for brits.My son knows of 2 of his friens come from Southampton. A relative of my sons partner was in hospital giving birth, and she told her family she was terrified, not only was the birth difficult , because the cord was around the babys neck, but at the time the building was swaying from side to side.I cant imagine the terror she must have felt. buildings have gone down in Bogata, but where else we don’ t yet know. One wonders if reporting these days is purely based on politics.

  28. 28 Pat
    July 6, 2008 at 00:53

    The world cannot afford wars because the world cannot afford to make orphans of children who inevitably suffer the irreparable harm of having lost their place in the world, from within the family to which they were born.

    There is no harm greater to a child than to place him or her in suspended animation for life. Consideration of children’s rights should be the first priority, not the last, and not the incidental.

    Societies do not exist without children, and children find great difficulty existing without family. Considering family incidental to a child is the greatest wrong of all time, the bastardization of the very principle of biological integrity.

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