UNICEF and government start child registration

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), together with the Ministry of Social Welfare (MoSW), has begun the massive task of registering all children currently living in emergency settlements across quake-hit areas of Pakistan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

"Registration that has started in the cities of Mansehra and Muzaffarabad will soon be expanded to other areas. It would help to have some sort of statistics of affected children including those unaccompanied, with specifications regarding their age and gender groups to facilitate us in future planning," Serap Maktav, UNICEF's South Asia regional adviser on child protection said in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Tuesday.

As of today, at least 1,100 children up to 18 years of age have been registered in one Jalalabad emergency camp of Muzaffarabad city. Another 3,000 minors have been recorded in three emergency settlements in the Balakot area of Mansehra district in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

According to UNICEF, more than 17,000 children were killed and between 1.6 and 2.2 million were affected by the quake that devastated the region and left at least 58,000 people dead.

In a joint effort with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and several other national and international NGOs, MoSW intends to devise a comprehensive strategy to deal with the problems of orphaned, unattended, separated, injured and missing children.

Based on information from registration forms, "ICRC will help the separated children in tracing their family roots through various means, such as community meetings and gathering information from various sources. While, in some areas, we have already started working," Antonia Spanaki from the tracing unit of the ICRC said in Islamabad.

Following the chaos and confusion immediately after the earthquake, the Pakistani government imposed a national ban on the adoption of children for a period of six months. Islamabad has also restricted the relocation of children from quake-affected areas to prevent the abuse and trafficking of quake children.

"The government is trying to address the issue on a priority basis. Several monitoring teams are presently on the ground to assess the situation of children in emergency settlements as well as other open places both in NWFP and Pakistani-administered Kashmir," Muhammad Hassan Mangi, a MoSW child protection expert said in Islamabad.

MoSW has set up six 'Child Care and Rehabilitation Centres' to house orphaned and unattended children from quake-hit areas where they will be provided with education, health and emotional support.

"Three centres with an extended capacity to house 700 children have been set up in Islamabad, while three others are in Mansehra, Muzaffarabad city with 500 capacity each and in Bagh with a capacity of keeping 200 children," Mangi said.