Displaced children in North and East as traumatised as orphans

Homeless youngsters are doubly vulnerable, says child rights spokesman
By Madhushala Senaratne

The plight of displaced children who have had to leave their homes because of the ongoing conflict in the North and East is as serious as that of children who have lost their parents, said Child Protection Society president S. S. Wijeratne.

Mr. Wijeratne, who was speaking at the Child Protection Society’s 80th annual general meeting, held last week, pointed out that children accounted for 30 percent of the country’s displaced persons, and that their situation presented major challenges to child rights activists and organisations. “Internally displaced children constitute some 30 percent of the internally displaced population, he said. “As such, they are vulnerable twice over – firstly as children, and secondly as displaced children who have had to flee their homes.”

“Children have the basic right to be secure from molestation, discrimination, abuse, and the absence of shelter and education,” Mr. Wijeratne said. “These are universal principles of protection, and they also apply to internally displaced children. When families are displaced, the situation of internally displaced children is as serious as it is for children who have lost their parents.” Child conscription by armed groups in the country’s North and East, exposure to pornography, paedophiles and the potential dangers of the internet were some of the other challenges that child rights activists had to confront, Mr. Wijeratne said.

The CPS president said the state should ensure that all child conscripts who escaped the clutches of militant groups be rehabilitated. He said the Child Protection Society’s programme for the coming year included establishing child protection centres and a foster care system, as well as finding jobs for needy young people.

The Child Protection Society was founded in 1928 for the protection, shelter and development of deprived children. The society runs two homes – a girls’ home in Rukmale, Kottawa, which presently cares for 24 children, and a boys’ home in Maharagama, which has 31 boys under its care. The children at both homes are between five and 18 years. The children are provided with education, health and medical facilities, and are given opportunities to engage in sports and extra-curricular activities.
Mr. Wijeratne is the society’s president for 2008/09. He is assisted by vice-presidents Fredrick Mendis, Rowena Mendis and Hussein Caffoor, and secretary Mihindu Keerthiratne and treasurer Shirani Jayasekera. Walter Laduwahetty is the society’s vice-patron.

Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. chairman Ranjit Wijewardene, who was chief guest at the event, also addressed the gathering.

Children from the society’s two homes entertained the guests with a short concert to showcase their talents.

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