Over 200 children who were rescued after the April 25 earthquake in Nepal have gone missing, raising fears they could have fallen victims of trafficking.
The children are among the 337 children who were rescued from eight of the 14 districts worst affected by the quake and brought to Kathmandu by various government authorities and non-government agencies.
"There is no trace yet of 215 children who were rescued from a Buddhist monastery in Gorkha district and were brought to Kathmandu," said Dilli Ram Giri, chairperson of Central Child Welfare Board.
Similarly 22 of the 29 children rescued from Okhaldhunga district have also been reported missing from Kathmandu.
"A massive operation underway with help of police to find these children and unite them with their parents or guardians in their home districts," Giri said.
Religious institutions like monasteries, 'madrasas', churches and temples have also been asked to provide the authorities with details of all children kept in their care.
The revelations come days after authorities in Kavre district rescued 22 children who were kept in a shelter away from their parents by Swami Ramdev's Patanjali Yogpeeth without government permission.
Soon after the April 25 quake, Ramdev, who was present in Kathmandu when the temblor took place, had announced plans to adopt nearly 500 Nepali children who had become orphaned due to the disaster.
"No one is allowed to take children anywhere outside the limits of their home districts without their parents accompanying them or without taking permission from the government," said home ministry spokesperson Laxmi Prasad Dhakal.
Last month, the government had banned children below 16 years of age from travelling outside their home district without a parent or another adult approved by the district child welfare board.
This was done to prevent trafficking of quake-affected children.
According to government figures, 82 children lost both their parents and 427 others lost one parent in the April 25 and May 12 quakes.
Authorities fear unscrupulous organizations and individuals might lure these children away from their homes by promising good education, food and shelter to the parents or guardians.