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Women’s Refugee Commission calls on international community to ensure children’s best interests are protected in response to Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines has left unknown numbers of children separated from their families. Once the initial relief phase has ended, we will likely find that some of these children have been orphaned. United Nations and international relief agencies are now conducting registration and tracing to facilitate family reunification where possible, and to determine how best to meet the needs of unaccompanied children.

Mechanisms must be established to ensure that children's rights are protected, that those who can be reunited with family are able to do so, and that unsafe adoptions and trafficking of children do not occur.

As previous crises have demonstrated, many children who are separated from their families during an emergency are not, in fact, orphans. It can take considerable time before registration and tracing efforts identify and reunite children with their parents. Even if parents are deceased, there may be other family members who are willing and able to provide care. Removing children from their communities in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon can further compromise their well-being by leading to unnecessary, permanent separation from their family and support network.

The Women's Refugee Commission recommends that no new adoption procedures of children affected by the typhoon begin until every child has been given the best possible chance of being reunited with his or her family. Only once the family tracing effort has been exhausted and it is determined that children cannot be reunited, and after proper screening, should international adoption be considered.