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Posted by on Jan 3, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Tsunami Unleashes Child Scams

When the tsunami in South Asia swept some 6 countries, killing 150,000 people — one third of them kids — it unleashed something else:

Scams involving children. There are many reports but perhaps the most troubling of them come from India and Sri Lanka.

From India, New Delhi’s Hindustan Times (where The Moderate Voice interned in 1972) reports that relatives are splitting up orphans so they can spread the wealth on relief money:

Aid groups and government officials are concerned that orphans are being split among relatives more eager to obtain money promised for tsunami survivors than to care for the children.

The paper gives some specific examples, then adds:

One Unicef official said a man, who turned up claiming to be an uncle of an orphaned boy turned out to be a fraud after the child refused to go with him.

"Obviously, these orphans are precious to their relatives and even others not related, for the money relief offered by the government," said S. Vidyaakar, founder-director of Madras-based ‘Udhavum Karangal’ (Helping Hands), a voluntary institution.

The organisation, which cares for destitute children, old people and the terminally ill, placed an advertisement in newspapers offering to take tsunami orphans into care. It received not a single response.

Vidyaakar, however, fears his time will come sooner than later, when the relatives grab the relief money and then dump the orphans on the road. "Then we will step in and take care of those unfortunate ones," he said.

"We are worried about the plight of these kids as we find in most cases that their relatives have staked claim over them only with an eye on the relief money from the government," said a state official at a relief camp.

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka officials are on the lookout for child snatchers — who want to pick up kids and sell them. According to Sri Lanka’s Sunday Observer:

The Government Medical Officer’s Association (GMOA) warns of attempts of some people to ‘snatch’ little children, who have become parentless and homeless due to tsunami waves and requests the government to take immediate action to open separate probation units in nearby base hospitals in affected areas to provide temporary security for these children.

The GMOA says that they have information about some people who tried to sell children in refugee camps in Hambantota and Galle. "Some identifying themselves as children’s guardians and others as relatives have tried to sell them. Some tried to give the infants for adoption", Dr. Uditha Herath of the GMOA, said.

UPDATE: Wizbang has some additional info about tsunami related problems that are popping up.