Christian Groups Tend to 50,000 Quake Orphans, Separated Children

Christian organizations are addressing the rising concern among relief agencies and Pakistani government officials of the more than 50,000 orphans and separated children from the massive Oct. 8 quake.

Pakistan – the country hit hardest by last month’s 7.6 magnitude quake – is facing another crisis in addition to the shortage of tents, medical care, drinking water and food. With the current death toll in Pakistan at 55,000 and number of injured and wounded people at 78,000, according to Reuters, statistics indicate that children are among the most affected victims of the disaster; AsiaNews reports that half of those killed were children.

UNICEF reported that an estimated 1.6 million to 2.2 million children were affected by the quake. Of that, an estimated 50,000 children have been either orphaned or separated from their parents following the quake, according to the Pakistani Daily Times newspaper.

In response to the high number of children traumatized by the disaster through the deaths of family members or friends, Christian aid agencies are providing counseling and care centers specifically for children.

“There is need to help child quake survivors to overcome their psychological trauma” and to “live with their disabilities,” reported Pakistani Caritas, according to AsiaNews.

“These little ones are all traumatized. We must see to their physical and mental health before it is too late,” said Andreas Fabricius, a member of the German Caritas providing medical relief in the affected area.

World Vision (WV) International, which is meeting the needs of the children on a long-term basis, declared that children would be the focus for its work in earthquake-ravaged Pakistan. A WV program called Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) is allowing children to share their grief and return to normalcy in a safe environment. Through CFS, children express their emotions through games and activities, such as drawing and talking to other children. They are also encouraged to play with toys and sing songs to return to routine life. The CFS in Pakistan will also help promote education.

“The emergency has allowed cultural barriers to come down and this is the time to build trust. As families and communities get to know World Vision, children are encouraged to participate in the decision-making process and most of them do want to get back to their studies,” said Siân Platt, World Vision Child Protection Coordinator, in a report by WV.

Children in Pakistan will learn basic hygiene practices such as washing their hands and using garbage bins for wrappers and empty containers. In addition to their regular meals, they will be given snacks during programs in their temporary home tents or feeding centers. The CFS tents will be winterized and contain space heaters if necessary.

Three WV Child Friendly Spaces were opened at the end of October with an additional 14 scheduled to open and run for at least 12 months.

“What we can do here is only a drop in the bucket," said Platt. "However, already the visitors to our Child Friendly Spaces are seeing hope and that hope will grow as more families come to trust us.”

World Vision International is a Christian relief and development organization working for the well being or all people, especially children. Through emergency relief, education, health care, economic development and promotion of justice, World Vision helps communities help themselves.