The whereabouts of 237 children from Gorkha and Okhaldhunga, who had left their homes after the April 25 earthquake , remain unknown, raising suspicion that they may have been the victims of trafficking.
The Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), the government body entrusted to monitor the movement of children in the country, said 215 children from Gorkha and 22 from Okhaldhunga are still unaccounted for after the earthquake .
“We are yet to trace 215 children from Lho Monastery from Lho village in Gorkha,” said CCWB Director Dilli Ram Giri.
The incident came to light after 195 children from Lho Monastery of Lho village in Gorkha were rescued by police from Kathmandu ’s Thankot and Dhading district on June 9. They were travelling without the letter of the district CCWB office, which was made mandatory in a bid to curb child trafficking in the wake of the earthquake . Those 215 children missing from Gorkha also belonged to Lho Monastery, Giri said. The monastery people have claimed that they had handed over the children to their respective guardians in Gorkha. The status of 22 children from Okhaldhunga also remains unknown. These children were last seen at Bal Mandir, a children centre in Kathmandu , where they were put up by the CCWB. The board had placed 29 children from Okhaldhunga in custody of Bal Mandir; the children had arrived from Okhaldhunga to Kathmandu with Mahesh Karmacha, former district development committee chairman.
The CCWB now says that it has been able to trace only seven of the children who are studying in Kantipur School at Gokarna.
“The Nepal Children’s Organisation that operates the Bal Mandhir had written to us stating that the remaining 22 children were reunited with their families, but our district office in Dolakha could not trace any of the children ,” said Namuna Bhusal, programme officer at the CCWB, who has been looking after the case.
Despite repeated attempts, Chiranjibi Bhandari, director of Nepal Children’s Organisation, could not be contacted.
Meanwhile, Karmacha has claimed that 16 children are studying in Kantipur School, seven are with their parents and six others, who had lost both their parents, are residing at Bal Mandir.
After the Gorkha earthquake , authorities have rescued 337 children from different parts of the country. These children were from Dhading, Dolakha, Kavre, Okhadhunga, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Lamjung and Rukum.
Senior Superintendent of Police Krishna Gautam, chief of Women and Children Department of Nepal Police, said the cases of children trafficking increased significantly in the wake of the earthquake .
Though the government had regulated the movement of children to minimise trafficking risk after the earthquake , the measures that were taken seem inadequate, given the number of children who have gone missing since April 25.