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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 12:16 GMT
Aceh orphans' long wait
By Andrew Harding
BBC News, Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Thousands of children, orphaned by Asia's tsunami, face a long wait before stability returns to their lives.

Messages from parents looking for their children in Banda Aceh
Parents have left messages of hope and despair

Every day more and more lost and frightened children are arriving at a special centre that has been set up in Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia's northern province of Aceh.

Anxious parents come here to search for their children. At its entrance is a message board. The messages flow with hope and despair.

The names of the missing are called out to the survivors. To help with the search they have started registering children here, taking photos to help put families back together.

But some already know the worst. Eleven-year-old Mawada hangs back until the very end. How many in your family, asks the official. "Seven," says Mawada, "but they're all dead now."


No one yet knows how many orphans the wave made here, but it is many thousands for sure.

We found Rafi sitting alone. "He has no father, no mother and no grandmother either. His hand is broken because of the disaster.

Mawada, an orphaned of the tsunami
When I don't think about my family I'm okay. It's easiest when I'm asleep

"But we'll make sure he'll be well taken care of," says Rudy Setyopurnomo, who works at the centre.

With the flags still at half mast, Indonesia faces a huge struggle. Ujang lost six brothers and both parents.

And all around us we found more children waiting to be taken care of, a few still hoping a relative will come to their rescue - a lonely wait in bleak conditions.

"I have a sister in law," says Mawada. "And a friend. But I don't know where they are.

"When I don't think about my family I'm okay. It's easiest when I'm asleep."

Total chaos

In so many ways, children have borne the brunt of this disaster.

First they died in their thousands. And now so many survivors have found themselves orphaned, lost in a world of total chaos.

Eleven days on, the wounded are still being brought in. Often the children are unaccompanied - their parents dead or simply missing.

Injured children in Indoneia
Injured children are still being found in outlying areas

Australian doctors tend to six-year-old Rafi Maulana. He arrived here wounded and alone, his parents killed. But who should decide what happens to him now?

"It's enormously difficult, particularly with medical demands requiring them to be moved away from their home areas," says Australian doctor James Bramley.

"There are a lot of displaced children who may end up not being cared for by the appropriate people."

As Rafi's wounds heal, he is clinging to the hope that a grandmother is still alive. He is waiting for her to come and get him.

Next door, a family tends to a relative. Two beds down, Rya Safrida lies on her bed, alone and silent. She is yet another member of an orphaned generation.

The experiences of children caught up in the tsunami


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