Muscat: Phones at the Ministry of Social Development Child Affairs Department have not stopped ringing for the last three days as hundreds of families have come forward to foster the two-year-old abandoned girl child, who is being called Dana (Pearl).
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“Our phone has been continuously ringing for the past three days. At least 200 families have come forward to foster the abandoned child,” said Mahfoudha Al Saifi, head of the alternative care centre at the Department of Children’s Affairs in the Ministry of Social Development in Oman.
“This is the first time they we have received such a huge response from people in Oman,” the official added.
A source at the Royal Oman Police (ROP) said that the initial investigations about the unidentified girl, who was handed over last Friday to Al Buraimi Police Station showed that the child was not found at Al Buraimi Public Park, as alleged by the Omani woman who delivered the girl to the Police Station.
The source told ONA that the mother of the child is a Gulf citizen who entered the Sultanate with her child and then kept the child under the custody of an Omani man for a limited period of time. The mother then left the country with a promise that she will return to take the child, but did not come back.
The source added that the Omani citizen who was caring for the child decided to hand over the girl to Al Buraimi Police Station through an Omani woman who alleged that she found her at the public park. The source dismissed allegations that the father of the child is an Omani citizen.
The ROP source said investigations in the case are still going on and urged everyone to get information from reliable sources and avoid rumors or circulation of untrue information.
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That child’s picture and updates from Royal Oman Police (ROP) about her status and investigation have become a sensation on social networking sites.
Trending for more than a day, #identified_girl (in Arabic), has caught the attention of officials and common people in the Sultanate.
A citizen has also offered via Twitter, an OMR1,000 award for the person who can find the abandoned girl’s parents.
However, the Ministry of Social Development said it’s too early to hand over the little girl to a foster family.
According to the law, she will be kept at the centre until all legal procedures are over. She will be later kept at the ‘Al Wifaq’ Care Centre.
There are other criteria that need to be followed in order to foster a child, and those who are interested must contact the Child Affairs Department at the Ministry of Social Development, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, expatriate embassy officials and social workers said if they come across such cases, protection of the child will be their priority.
“During the last nine months of my term, I have not come across any abandoned child cases. However, if we come across such cases, we will verify the nationality of the child, look for the parents or relatives in Oman and will do the needful,” Indra Mani Pandey, the India’s ambassador to Oman, said.
“If the child is proved to be Indian and doesn’t have anybody here, then we will repatriate the child to India,” the ambassador said, adding that protection of adults and children are his priority.
An official from the Bangladesh embassy also expressed the same opinion.
“The first step is to verify the nationality. If we can confirm that the child is Bangladesh citizen, then we will take steps to protect the child,” Zahed Ahmed, a senior official from the Bangladesh embassy, said.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani social worker, who had come across such a case in 2010, said the Pakistani embassy would take immediate action to protect the abandoned child.
“In 2010, a woman handed over a child to me at the Pakistan embassy and ran away. Fortunately, we were able to find her. We learnt from her that as her husband had abandoned them, they were struggling even for food. Finally, the embassy took steps to support them,” Azra Aleem, a Pakistani social club official, said.
In 2014, two brothers were found abandoned in Qurum Park in the capital Muscat.