Monday February 27, 2006
UNICEF warns against trafficking of Philippine landslide orphans
MANILA, Philippines (AP): The U.N. children's agency on Monday urged the Philippine government and aid agencies to be on alert for child trafficking in a central province where a mudslide wiped out a village, leaving at least 40 minors orphaned.
UNICEF said it received information that unidentified peopld have appeared near the village of Guinsaugon, which was buried by a Feb. 17 landslide, asking if any children needed to be adopted.
It also said that a local nongovernment organization, Visayan Forum, had documented 25 cases of trafficking of children and adults in the immediate vicinity of the landslide. It didn't immediately provide further details.
"We have briefed all camp managers, heads of agencies, law enforcement officials and disaster coordinating officials of our concern about child trafficking and have been especially assured that children who have lost parents will be protected,'' UNICEF representative Nicholas Alipui said in a statement.
Officials said 139 bodies have been recovered and 973 people were missing and feared dead. The Red Cross reported there were about 6,700 evacuees from four Southern Leyte towns, including those who had been moved out before Guinsaugon was engulfed.
About 200 children have survived the landslide, UNICEF said, of which about 40 lost both parents.
Documentation of unaccompanied children was continuing, UNICEF said, adding that the province is a notorious hotspot for human trafficking and illegal recruitment, often in prostitution, pornography, forced labor, marriage and illegal adoption.