A baby called Wave
There cannot be many babies named after disasters, but then there cannot be many babies that nature has thrown so totally on the comfort of strangers as 20-day-old Wave. In his short life, the Thai boy has escaped a tsunami that appears to have killed his parents and the poverty that forced his carer to abandon him three days later.
Wave, named by the nurses who are looking after him, was found in a bag on December 29. A note found inside the bag, tells his story: “Please, please look after this baby because I have no money and no means to keep him. His parents were swept into the sea at Patong. If you cannot keep him yourself, please take him somewhere where he will be looked after.’‘
Not much has gone right for Wave, but that wish at least has come true and the search is on to find a long-term carer. Social workers are trying to find foster parents for the baby, one of at least 270 Thai children who lost one or both parents in the tsunami.
Older children, however, are reluctant to accept the death of parents that have gone missing. Fifteen-year-old Bua Changthong’s mother died several years ago. Her father is thought to have perished, but the teenager has yet to find a body.
Although the girl was put in the care of a local children’s home, she has spent the past few days roaming the streets, the hospital and the morgues in search of her father.
Although the orphans’ stories are heart-rending in Phuket, the city’s children got off relatively lightly —only three lost both parents and the prospects of finding them foster families are good. The same cannot be said among the poor fishing villages in Phang Nga, the area that suffered the greatest devastation. At Kura Bupri, a community 80km north of Phuket, five siblings have been left alone in their shack since the death of their parents. Their bodies washed ashore three days after the tsunami hit, but their children — aged three to 12 — refuse to believe they are dead.
“When we buried them, the kids shouted at us,’’ said Somchas Lantong, their grandmother. “They believed their parents were only sleeping.’‘
Somchas and her husband say it will be difficult for them to look after the children. “We have received some donations and the government has promised us 15 000 baht compensation for each of the dead parents, but it is not enough,’’ she said.
Families have been told that Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, whose grandson was killed, will pay for the education of children who have lost a parent in the disaster. This is likely to amount to a huge sum.
n Meanwhile, fears are growing for children orphaned in the tsunami disaster after a senior United Nations official warned of credible reports that criminal gangs in Indonesia are offering them for adoption or exploitation.
Sri Lanka is already compiling a register of orphaned children to forestall attempted trafficking there. On Monday the government banned Acehnese under-16s from leaving the country.
Unicef says that it is working with the government to register every child in Sri Lanka’s makeshift refugee camps. Teams have finished in Galle and Batticaloa and plan to have covered the whole country within the next five days.— Â