What Happens to Children Matters to Me
The whole world knows the armed conflict in Sri Lanka especially since the escalation early this year. By mid February there were about 35,000 people who managed to flee the fighting areas in the North and come to a district called Vavuniya where the Government of Sri Lanka and humanitarian agencies were providing some sort of relief to them.
Something that alarmed me during my visits was the number of children who were separated from their parents or have gone missing. Since Save the Children were registering these children, I was horrified to see lists of children as young as 2 years, gone missing. Didn’t seem like many people cared about finding these children or reunifying children who were separated from their parents. For a long time I felt quite alone in fearing for these children. How can this be? some were separated during transportation. Some have been sent out of the conflict areas by parents for their safety.
Last month in a camp in Vavuniya I met a ten year old girl who was sent by her parents to safe area with her older sister who was married. Her sister had asked a friend to take her to safety. They all travelled in a bus to come to Vavuniya. At the military checkpoint where families were screened ( to separate combatants from civilians) she was asked to step aside as she did not belong to that family. Then the friend’s family left. She waited at the check point all alone hoping that the sister would arrive. She did not. When the next lot of displaced persons arrived at the check point the soldiers asked if anyone knew her. An English teacher from her school came forward and claimed he knew her. She was handed over to him… fortunately he looked after her.. but what if he didn’t!!?
With numbers of displaced people growing in the camps the number of separated children also may grow. I will be visiting Vavuniya in two days time and am eager to see this girl and hundreds of others who have been separated are reunited. Why? Because what happens to children matters to me