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Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Quake orphans still seeking homes

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

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A ceremony to remember quake victims

Only 12 children orphaned by the earthquake that struck China's Sichuan province six months ago have been formally adopted.

More than 600 children lost both parents in the magnitude-8.0 earthquake that left about 88,000 people dead or missing.

But only a handful of these have completed official adoption procedures.

Six months after the devastating earthquake, people in Sichuan are still trying to rebuild their lives.

Quoting a senior official from Sichuan, the Beijing News said most of the orphans would be housed with relatives that were not killed in the quake.

The schools are the starting point because teachers need training to be able to deal with the children's disturbed state
Francis Markus
Red Cross spokesman
Other children will be adopted by non-relatives or live in orphanages.

Each child will receive 600 yuan ($88; 57) a month from the government until they are formally adopted or reach 18, the newspaper said.

Finding permanent homes for the earthquake orphans is just one of many problems still unresolved in a region hit by China's worst earthquake in 30 years.

Building blocks

Rebuilding work will take years, partly because much of the affected area lay in the remote mountains of northern Sichuan.

An elderly survivor of May's quake stands on the ruins of collapsed houses in Leigu township of Beichuan county, Sichuan province, on 10 November
Much of the quake zone remains a rubble site
Five million people were left homeless by the quake. They will need new houses, as well as schools, health clinics and other basic services.

The government announced last week it will spend $146b over the next three years in the devastated area.

Money will be used mostly for rebuilding work, including larger infrastructure projects, such as a railway from the provincial capital Chengdu to the affected area.

But in at least one place there will be no rebuilding. Beichuan was so badly hit that the government is moving the entire town to a new location.

More than half the town's 26,000 residents died in the earthquake and most of its buildings were completely destroyed.

The government has decided to leave the old town as it is and turn it into a national monument. At the moment it is sealed off, surrounded by a tall, wire fence.

Trauma

It is not just physical rebuilding that requires work. Traumatised people, many of them children, are still receiving counselling.

One organisation involved in this work is the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which offers help in five schools.

"The schools are the starting point because teachers need training to be able to deal with the disturbed state of some of the children," said organisation spokesman Francis Markus.

These children, and their parents, are still trying to come to terms with what happened six months ago.



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