Indonesian ‘orphans’ on the increase as Tsunami pushes parents into poverty and children into institutions

Thousands of children affected by the tsunami are languishing in orphanages in Indonesia despite having at least one parent alive, according to new research by Save the Children. More than 85 per cent of the 2,589 children who were placed into institutions after the tsunami still have at least one parent alive, and 42% still have both parents.

In a report published today (27 November), Save the Children states that the reason many families have been forced to place their children in homes is because they were unable to give them the right standard of care, shelter or education. Half of the children in the institutions were placed there some time after the disaster, indicating that their families found they were unable to care for the children rather than that the child’s parents had died. The report found that being placed in institutions is not a short-term
solution until families get back on their feet – most children had not been returned to their families more than one year later.

The charity is also concerned that some orphanages are ‘recruiting’ children from the tsunami-affected area of Aceh in order to access more money.

Tsunami relief funding is being directed to children’s homes rather than being used to provide families with the support they need to care for their children. In addition, most funding for institutions is linked to the number of children living there so they have an incentive to go out and recruit children and keep them at the home for as long as possible.

A total of 17 children’s homes were built in Banda Aceh after the tsunami and there is evidence that some organisations proposed building larger institutions on the basis that they could fill them. Save the Children argues that this way of allocating funding is damaging as no assessments on the needs of the children were carried out.

Kevin Byrne, director of Save the Children UK in Indonesia, said: “These children lost a great deal in the tsunami but are now missing out on the care and protection of their parents. Indonesia is at a crossroad in terms of how it responds to the challenge of caring for its most vulnerable children – support must be given to benefit families rather than the institutions that keep them apart.”

Save the Children is calling for:
* Priority to be given to interventions that directly target families facing challenges in the care of their children, with particular focus on single parents and extended families caring for tsunami- affected children.

* Funding to be shifted away from supporting institutions and instead support family and community based interventions that are sustainable, including ensuring families can afford full education costs for their children

* No new children’s homes to be built in Aceh without prior assessment that shows a clear need for such an institution.

* Regular contact between children and their parents, families and relatives should be encouraged and facilitated including frequent home visits.

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Name: Sarah Jacobs