While in one sense totally alone, they huddle together in their thousands in refugee camps across the Chinese province.
The plight of the children has prompted huge numbers of couples to offer to care for them. Phone lines to the Sichuan Civil Affairs Department in the province’s capital, Chengdu, which handles adoptions in the region, have been jammed since soon after the quake on May 12, with tens of thousands of couples offering their services as prospective parents.
There has been a widespread outpouring of grief and sympathy for the 5,500 children whose parents are dead or missing, fuelled by images of orphans wearing refugee tags. With 18,618 people still unaccounted for, the number of children left alone is expected to rise.
Many couples seeking to adopt earthquake orphans are also motivated by the chance to get around China’s one-child policy.
The New York Times also reports that parents whose children were severely injured or killed in the earthquake will be allowed to have another child.
In response to inquiries from grieving relatives, local officials announced Monday that parents whose only child was killed or grievously injured in the May 12 earthquake would be exempt from the country’s one-child policy.
The exception, issued by the Chengdu Population and Family Planning Committee in Sichuan Province, said qualified parents could apply for legal permission to have another child, according to The Associated Press.