Nepal learning from other natural disasters
Heeding these lessons, child protection organisations working in Nepal are focusing on ensuring that separated children are quickly reunited with their families and not placed in orphanages unnecessarily.
Agencies have created “Child Friendly Spaces” to help children work through the trauma associated with the earthquake, and also to monitor children that require assistance.
Some child protection organisations have addressed the inter-country adoption issue directly. Children’s charity SOS Children’s Villages posted a notice on their website immediately after the earthquake explaining why inter-country adoption was not an appropriate option at this stage.
Fortunately, Nepal tightened its inter-country adoption laws in the past few years. There has been no immediate suggestion of relaxing them in order to expedite adoptions, as happened in Haiti.
There has also been a major focus on encouraging people to donate money rather than rushing to Nepal to volunteer in the aid effort. In the child protection space, the clear message is that orphanage voluntourism, where people volunteer in orphanages in developing countries, is not desirable or required.
It appears the message is beginning to resonate. People are starting to understand that good intentions can lead to harmful outcomes for vulnerable children. This is only amplified in the current situation.
Overall, it appears the response to the vulnerable children of the Nepal earthquake is implementing the lessons learnt from Haiti. Prior to the earthquake, Nepal committed to monitoring and closing unregistered and non-compliant orphanages. The hope is that as aid floods into the small developing nation, this commitment will be remembered, upheld and implemented.
Nepal and its children have a long road to recovery ahead. Let’s hope they, and the international community, are wise enough to implement the lessons from the past in order to protect the future of their children.