NGO worries about missing children in cyclone-hit West Bengal


New Delhi : Save the Children, an NGO, Friday said it was apprehensive about the safety of children in cyclone-hit coastal West Bengal as there were reports of many children having gone missing and it feared they could have been trafficked.

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Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children, which is working in West Bengal since 1997,

said children are more vulnerable to trafficking after major disasters like floods.

Commenting on reports of missing children in the 24 Parganas area in West Bengal, he said: “This is extremely worrying as we know that children are the most vulnerable after a natural disaster. After the Bihar floods in 2008, the number of children trafficked increased sharply.”

He recounted that a 15-year-old girl, Farida, from Sandekshali in the Sundarbans reported that she couldn’t find any of her friends with whom she had gone to a learning centre with.

He said as Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas is endemic to trafficking, they had set up community-based protection mechanisms to ensure that children in this block are safe. “The agency has helped to rescue and rehabilitate around 2,000 children so far. Sadly, the entire infrastructure set up by Save the Children has been destroyed,” he added.

The NGO also appealed to people to contribute to help the people of the state in the wake of the devastation wrought by Cyclone Aila. “Save the Children is appealing for public support as it launches its relief operation to assist thousands of families who have lost their homes and livelihoods in Cyclone Aila which battered West Bengal,” Chandy said.

Save the Children works in 11 states and union territories for the rights of the children.

He said North and South 24 Parganas were two of the worst hit districts with “more than a hundred villages still under water.”

“Most of these villages are now inaccessible and with each passing day, the risk of a major outbreak of water-borne diseases increases,” said Chandy.