VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka
More than two years after Sri Lanka's decades-long conflict officially ended, the whereabouts of 630 children are unknown, according to a government database.
Most went missing during the final phase of the war that ended on 18 May 2009, when government forces declared victory over the now defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland since'83.
According to reports cited by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) , 64 percent of those missing were recruited by the LTTE while 30 percent were last seen behind government lines.
During the last phase of the war, more than 300,000 civilians were displaced from areas once under Tiger control, popularly known as the Vanni.
When they poured into camps set up in Vavuniya, just outside the theatre of fighting, many parents were desperate to find their children.
"There were women crying outside my office, asking me to find their children," Piencia Charles, the most senior government official in the Vavuniya District, told IRIN.
In December 2009, Charles set up the Family Tracing Unit within the Vavuniya Divisional Secretariat.
"It's something I felt I had to do. There was no mechanism in place to search for these kids. The parents were in so much pain," she said.
UNICEF assisted the unit with additional human resources, training and a simple database to support the unit's work.
To date, more than 600 children have been reunited with their parents through the unit, with 13 cases pending and under verification.
Another 34 names given by parents have been matched with those on the database, with officers now trying to locate the children.
Recently the number of people coming to Charles for help in finding their children has decreased. However, tracing those still on the list will take time.
"The parents have returned to the villages. The children could be in a foster home or a detention centre. There is lot more paper-work and leg-work now," she said.
One mother's story
Kulasekran Kugamathi, a single mother-of-three, has just returned to her village Allankulam, about 70km from Vavuniya, but continues to search for her eldest son, who was 16 when he "volunteered" to fight with the LTTE in early 2008 so that his two younger brothers could continue with their education.
Thousands of child soldiers were believed to have been recruited and used by the LTTE during the last phase of the conflict, according to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers .
"I haven't heard from him since. I know he is somewhere, but I have to work. I don't have the time or the money to look for him," the 44-year-old said in frustration.
Saji Thomas, a UNICEF child protection specialist based in Vavuniya, says once the unit receives information about a child, the details are checked against a database. When a match is found, unit officials interview the child and parent to ensure the relationship is authentic.
"Once the unit is sure, then court proceedings begin to hand the child back to the parents," he said, describing the whole process as a challenge. "Global experience shows that tracing can go on for years sometimes," Thomas said.
Although the unit's mandate is limited to children, it also maintains data on missing adults, with close to 2,000 names registered already.
"I am looking for some funding to set up a unit to trace the missing adults. Maybe by the end of this year I can get something going," Charles said.
- Provided by Integrated Regional Information Networks.
- African Horn Migrants Heading South 'Pushed Backwards'
- Drought and HIV: A Dangerous Combination
- Drought Has Kenyans Running on Empty
- Security Risks Overshadow Aid Delivery Efforts in Kenya
- Drought Exacerbates Conflict in Turkana
- Kenyan Farmers Reap Rewards of Switching to Maize
- Uganda War Crimes Trial May Affect LRA Defections
- Egypt Taking on the Hepatitis C Virus
- Egypt - You Tweet You Want a Revolution
- Cleric Signals Egyptian Fears About Iran
- No NATO Ceasefire in Libya Despite Ramadan
- Ship Sinks Off Southern Philippine Province - 178 Passengers Saved
- Over 600 War Children Still Missing
- Saudis Assume Role as Banker of Counter-Revolution
- Israel Orders Illegal Jewish Outpost to be Vacated
- Bedouin Face Opportunity Gulf in Negev
- Netanyahu May Be Reversing Economic Course
- Israel's Arabs Debate National Service
- Israel Readies for Rocket Barrage
- Arabs Take Credit for 'Israeli Spring'
- Port Crisis Brings Iraq - Kuwait Relations to New Low
- Over 130 Dead in Latest Syrian Protest Crackdown
- As Protests Grow, Syrian Regime Gets Religion
- Iraq Dusts Off F-16 Order
- Foreign Investors Flock to Iraq
- Arab Spring on Your Ramadan TV Screen
- Greece's 2nd bailout: Debt Restructuring with No Debt Reduction?
- Eurozone Crisis: Greek Tragedy
- Turkey Grows Nervous Over Economy
- Istanbul's Greek Schools Struggle Amid Funding Shortage
- Turkey: Military Resignation Strategy Misfires
- Brazil and IBSA: Blueprint for Future Cooperation?
- Afghanistan: Rethinking the Way Forward
- And, in the Background ... Our Numbers Still Grow
- War Fatigue and the Un-Critical Critics of War
- Obama's Expanded Militarism
- Obama's Bush-League World
- China Eclipsing United States in Global Reach
- Debt Fight Reinforces China's Negative Views of America
- Military-Industrial Journalism
- Slapstick and Denial Highlight News International's London Testimony
- Rupert Murdoch's Legacy -- Greater Press Controls
- Decline of the English Scandal
- Another Blow to Journalism's Image
- On Journalistic Credibility
- Is Italy on the Brink of Debacle?
- European Debt Crisis: Could Italy Be Next?
- Italy: Barbarians -- in Suits -- at the Gates
- Looking at Greece in the Argentinean Mirror
- The Rise of Turkey in the Balkans
- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia Agree to Help Each Other on Road to EU
- Turkey's Kurds Announce Plan For Democratic Autonomy
- A Cyprus Solution By The End of The Year?
- Some Albanians Consider Changing Nationality for Profit
- Democracy in Mexico: The Past, Present, and Future
- Making Room for Brazil's Growing Clout
- Brazil's Deforestation Quagmire
- Obama MIA in Latin America
- The Other South Asia
- The 2011 Mumbai Serial Blasts and India's 'Resilience'
- Japan's Decline as a Robotics Superpower
- Will Fukushima Survivors Be Doubly Victimized?
- Why Palestinians Have Been Sitting Out the Arab Spring
- Qadhafi's Days in Libya Are Numbered
- How to Secure Peace in South Sudan
- Handling Big Contradictions
- Tax Havens: Shady Deals
- Environment: Worlds of Water
- Environment: Rebuilding Sandcastles
- Economic Cost in Yemen
- Egypt and Palestine: Internecine Alliance
- In New Egypt Old Conspiracies Live On
- Show Stolen From Egyptian Superstar in Anti-Mubarak Drive
- Russia Has Syrian Blood on Its Hands
- Syrian Revolution Gets Islamic Seal of Approval
- Muslim Brotherhood Challenges Jordan's King
- A Dumb and Dumber War in Libya
- Libya and the Problem with The Hague
- Are Palestinians Getting Cold Feet on Independence?
- Tent Camp Rises in Tel Aviv To Protest Home Costs
- Open Air Market at Heart of Jerusalem's Downtown Revival
- Rwanda: A New Rwanda?
- Somalia's Pirates: Ransom Cash 'Easy Come Easy Go'
- Al-Shabaab Offer Somalis Kinder and Gentler Face
- Mogadishu Hospitals Running Out of Medicine
- Kenya Feels the Strain as Somali Refugee Numbers Soar
- Ethiopia: Floods Pose New Threat to Food Security
- Understanding Nigeria's Boko Haram Radicals
- Turkey: Constitutional Overhaul?
- European Action Service: Europe Eats Its Young
- Spain: Playing at Revolution
- Spain May Change Tone on Latin America
- Britain's Tabloid Scandal Sounds Familiar
- Britain's Metropolitan Police Commissioner Quits Over News Corp Phone Hacking Scandal
- News of the World Editor Brooks Arrested
- Headed to Europe This Summer? It's Going to Be a Riot
- Europe This Summer: Go, But Carefully
- South Korea's School Tablets -- a Test for All
- Bombs Before Bread in North Korea
- 'Unprecedented' Drug Trafficking Heightens Risk To Youth
- Never-Say-Die Attitude Propels Japan to Victory Over USA In Women's FIFA World Cup Finals
- Three Venezuelan Scenarios -- None of Them Good
- Mexican President Congratulates Troops for Huge Marijuana Discovery
- On Humanitarianism: Is Helping Others Charity or Duty or Both?
- Financial Rebalancing Act: Stop Worrying About Global Flow of Capital
- Globalization and Unemployment
- The Divided States of Europe
- The Secrets of Germany's Economic Success
- Russia's Evolving Leadership
- Does Obama Have a Grand Strategy?
- The Crisis in Clean Energy
- Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring
- Egypt's Military and Upcoming Elections
- Taliban Hotel Attack: Low Death Toll, High Psychological Value
- Bin Laden's Re-branding of al-Qaida
- Perfidious Pakistan
- Effects of the American Drone Program in Pakistan
- NATO After Libya: The Atlantic Alliance in Austere Times
- South Africa's Land Reform Crisis
- Defending Democracy in Cote d'Ivoire
- Greece and EU Attempt to Avoid Disastrous Default
- Greece Passes Second Austerity Legislation
- Greek Parliament Narrowly Approves Austerity Program
- Greece Should Not Be About Austerity, It's About The Future Of Democracy
- Greek Crisis: Brace for More Volatility in Financial Markets
- Violence Mars Strikes in Greece
- Papandreou Seeks Greek MPs Support For Austerity Plan
- Ten Million at Risk as Drought Strikes African Horn
- South Sudan Teeters Weeks Before Independence
- Moroccan Voters Asked to Approve Reforms
- Myanmar Open To Microcredit Expansion
- Thousands Protest in Bangladesh Against Islamic Constitution
- New Evidence Not Sufficient to Retry Filipino Senator's Son For Rape and Murder
- Government Boosts Disaster Preparedness as Latest Storm Subsides
- Health Personnel Spreading Hepatitis in Pakistan
- Pakistan: More Polio Cases Despite Efforts to Contain It
- Brotherhood Gets Out Muslim Message with Movies
- Rejecting IMF Loan Egypt Risks Undermining Economy
- Arabs Divided on Prospects for Change
- Arab Spring: From Textbook to Tahrir Square
- Palestinian Inmates Put Away Their Textbooks
- Israel's Army Becoming God's Army
- Lebanon's New Leaders Face Economic-Credibility Problem
- Lebanon's Clerics Attack Domestic Violence Law
- Is Syrian Unrest an Invitation for Al-Qaeda?
- UK Public Workers Strike Over Pension Changes
Available at Amazon.com:
Copyright 2011, AHN - All Rights Reserved