Monday, November 14, 2011

World Orphan Day

     Tomorrow, November 14, is International Orphan's Day, a day set aside to remember and pray for the worlds orphans.  The United Nations report  "UNICEF State of the World's Children" produced in 2005 reports that there are between 143 - 210 million orphans in the world today.  Many criticize these numbers as being too high because they include children in under developed countries who have lost one parent and are cared for by the other parent on a part time basis.  However many orphan advocacy groups (Stars Foundation) subscribe to the 143 000 000 number because the UN report does not include many Islamic countries who refused to give information. (Iraq for example has over 200 000 orphans that are not included in the report.)  The UN stats show there are between 40 to 50 million orphans whose parents are both deceased. (18 million are from sub Saharan countries as a result of Aids/Hiv.) The remaining children, ages 0-16, have either been removed from their home because of lack of care or abuse, or they have been abandoned by their parents, due to economics, the health of the parents, or the inability of the parents to raise them.  Even more tragic is the fact that some children leave their home because they are sold and trafficked by their own parents.  
     Ideally if a child is left orphaned, relatives will step in to care for the child.  When this is not a possibility, there are basically three other places where these children end up.  Orphans in most western countries live in the foster care system, where individual care and attention can be given to a child by loving people. However multiple disruptive placements can still damage a child.  There are over 500 000 kids in the US in foster care, 130 000 available for adoption.  Communist and many former communist countries still use state run orphanages and many developing countries have orphanages run by charitable organizations, such as churches or the Red Cross.  In an orphanage there is often a high child to caregiver ratio, which doesn't make it easy or even possible for caregivers to give individual attention or love to a child.  Children often are neglected for long periods of time, and many babies give up crying as it goes unanswered anyways.  Rates of violence in an institution are six times higher than in foster care and sexual abuse is four times higher.  Two reports to come out of Russia and the Ukraine in 1998 show that 10-15% of orphans who aged out of the system at 16 years of age commit suicide before they turn 18.  Almost 60% of girls resort to prostitution for a time, many permanently, while 70% of boys commit a crime within three years.  Children that do not live in an orphanage or with foster parents are left on the streets.  The UN estimates 150 million children are living on the streets but admit there is no way of knowing how many are orphans.  Children on the street are subject to the weather, abuse, sexual exploitation, mal-nurishment and neglect.
     Perhaps some of you have never heard these statistics before and are shocked by them.  Others have heard them before and its so easy to forget in our busy lives.  Let's not forget though, our Christian duty to care for the most vulnerable people in the world.  Let me leave you with one last statistic.  Last week the UN predicted the seven billionth person was born. Despite the fact that there are seven billion people on this planet, only two hundred and fifty thousand children will be adopted this year, 0.17% of the world's orphans!

Posted by Derek and Valerie

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