Improving Outcomes for Child Victims of Natural Disasters: A Recurring Challenge

Vol. 43 No. 3

By

Jillian E. Nelson is a staff attorney with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., and a volunteer court-appointed special advocate for children in D.C. Superior Court.

Disasters are increasing in number and intensity. Some reports indicate that Asia was home to 85 percent of people affected by disasters in the last decade. This means that Asian children are especially vulnerable to natural disasters. In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, considered one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, struck 36 provinces in the Philippines. Over five million children were affected, and for many children, the repercussions were devastating. Children can become separated from their families or orphaned as a result of sudden-onset disasters. They also experience increasing vulnerability to exploitation when social welfare systems are strained or wholly incapacitated by widespread destruction. This article discusses the hope of intercountry adoption for children orphaned by natural disasters, how international human rights laws foster or stifle the adoption process, and what practitioners can do to improve outcomes for child victims of natural disasters. This discussion focuses on the situation of the Philippines, whose challenges may be emblematic for similar countries the world over.

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