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Vulnerable victims

From Mary Snow

Wolf Blitzer Reports

NEW YORK (CNN) -- As if it weren't enough of a nightmare to endure the tsunami, the smallest victims face another threat that aid organizations are trying to prevent: children, particularly orphans, being exploited, whether it's abduction or sexual abuse.

"In emergencies, adults unfortunately take advantage of children, and we're seeing it again. The scale of the problem so far as we've seen it is not enormous, but when we have so many children who are vulnerable, when you have children who have left their parents -- who have either physically or actually lost them in the location -- it means that they are more vulnerable," says Dan Toole, director of emergency operations for UNICEF.

Bob LaPrade of Save the Children is heading to Indonesia, where one of the organization's priorities is to have a system to monitor children so they can be registered and tracked.

"Because the exploitation of children is such as issue around the world, especially in the time of natural disaster like now, it is very important that we focus on it," says LaPrade.

In Aceh, the problem of child exploitation was a problem long before the tsunami.

"Aceh is, in fact, a place where trafficking has been a problem in the past, so it is something that the international community and the Indonesian government rightly is concerned about," LaPrade says.

What's also common in the wake of a disaster, say relief groups, are rumors about exploitation, which adds the task of separating fact from fiction to their already complex jobs.

But they say they are braced for the worst.

Ruud Lubbers, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, told CNN Tuesday, "From my people, I don't have solid evidence [of child trafficking]. We are prepared for this sort of behavior and terrible things, so we are cautious. We are trying to prevent it. But I cannot confirm reports that this is happening on a large scale right now."

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