Abandoned Infants in Pakistan

At just over a month old, Fatima was given away on live television. Fatima is just one of many children orphaned in Pakistan after being abandoned in trashcans and dirty alleyways. Placed in piles of rubbish, these infants are dying by the hundreds every year. On his show, “Amaan Ramzan,” Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain famously gives away cars and other luxury items to families in need. However, the show made world news after giving Fatima and another baby girl to a family who are unable to have children. As he explains, “These children are not a part of garbage, are not a part of trash, so we took these children from the garbage, from the trash and delivered them to the needy people, the needy parents.” Fatima’s new mother, Tanzeem Ud Din, said that she hopes the show will help encourage others to adopt children in need.

While the cause of the trend to abandon children remains unknown, many have their theories. One father who adopted two of these afflicted children and wishes to remain unnamed said, “it could be people not wanting children, women on their own or a couple that did not go through with an abortion.” He says religious belief plays a great roll in this. Many perish in the litter before they can be rescued. The lucky ones make it to orphanages dedicated to helping abandoned children. The father described his visit to the orphanage he adopted from sites of children with fear on their faces, crying because they had been dropped off two days ago when their mother died and their father left to remarry. Many of the children here live without a birth certificate or any paperwork for identification.

While the situation is horrific, many are working on solutions that will help save these children’s lives.

  1. Improvements to legislation: According to Director of the Imkaan Welfare Organization, Tahera Hasan, “Solutions don’t lie with philanthropic institutions and they never will. We are literally a drop in the ocean as far as the larger landscape is concerned.” In 2016, the Upper House of Parliament passed its first-ever bill to help abandoned children. Un-attended Orphans Rehabilitation and Welfare Act was written to protect the rights of orphaned children and ensure housing, education and healthcare.
  2. Decreasing poverty rates throughout Pakistan: According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015–2016, 39 percent of the population lives in poverty. In contrast, the country has a total fertility rate of 2.55, according to the CIA Factbook, putting it at number 76 for world fertility rates. As a comparison, the United States is 142 on this list. Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms says poverty reduction is one of the main objectives of Pakistan’s Vision 2025.
  3. Improving adoption services: According to Hasan, “There is no formal structure for adoption in place here, it is not recognized by the state.” Hansan is dedicated to the support of families adopting in Pakistan with the Imkaan Welfare Organization. Adoption remains mainly unregulated in Pakistan, with no paperwork for these children.

Social worker Ramzan Chippa said, “Parents who are adopting babies want healthy babies.” However, many orphaned children are described as severely mentally ill, one father even noticing a boy tied up in his orphanage to prevent him from taking bites out of his own arm. As a result, organizations such as Imkaan Welfare Organization are necessary to help these children become adoptable and find homes to be placed in.

The unnamed adoptive father referred to the child crisis in Pakistan as “unfinished business.” For countless children abandoned in dumpsters and litter, that is what their life is. Until Pakistan can adequately care for the thousands of unwanted children born every year, their existence will seem unfinished as they are homeless, purposeless and without a family.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

global orphan crisis
In 2015, there were 140 million orphans worldwide: 61 million in Asia, 52 million in Africa, 10 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 7.3 million in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. This constitutes a global orphan crisis and poverty is the leading cause.

The UN defines orphans as children who have lost either one or both parents. The vast majority of orphans still have a living parent and while many orphans live in orphanages, some still live with another family member. The UNICEF and numerous international organizations began classifying children with only one parent as orphans in the 1990s when the HIV/AIDS pandemic spread and began killing millions of parents around the world.

How Poverty Creates Orphans

HIV/AIDS is much more prevalent in impoverished countries than in developed countries. Single parents living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries may not have access to proper healthcare and subsequently may struggle to care for themselves and their children. Losing a parent can negatively impact a child’s access to food, shelter, education and healthcare. Losing the income of a parent, particularly that of the primary breadwinner, can be disastrous for a family and leave the living parent without enough money to care for his or her children.

Many parents living in poverty are unable to care for their children as they cannot afford food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education. They are not able to adequately provide for their children, which leaves some to resort to placing their children in orphanages in the hopes that they will have better lives.

However, children in orphanages do not typically fare better than children raised in loving homes. Institutionalization can have many adverse impacts on a child. Orphanages often do not have enough caregivers to provide children with the amount of attention and love that children in healthy families receive.

Children are more likely to experience neglect or abuse when they grow up in institutions. They may experience malnutrition and stunted growth. They are also more likely to experience delayed development and behavioral problems. This stems from the trauma of their parents dying, leaving their birth families and from the lack of permanence in their lives.

How to Solve the Global Orphan Crisis

UNICEF and numerous organizations including Save the Children, World Without Orphans and Orphan Outreach argue that orphanages are not the best solution for children. They instead encourage governments to support families and communities that care for orphans and allocate less funding to orphanages.

The costs of running orphanages are typically much higher than what is needed to support families struggling to provide for their children. Not only is it less expensive, it is also more beneficial for the children to be raised in their family or community rather than in an institution. For children who have no parents, UNICEF and organizations that focus on the global orphan crisis promote foster care and adoption.

Countries all over the world have been following this advice, establishing family-style care centers and foster-care services and reuniting children with family when possible. Since 1989, the number of children in Romanian orphanages has dropped from 100,000 to about 7,000. Bulgaria’s orphan population decreased from 7,500 in 2011 to 1,200 today. Out of 460,000 orphans in China, only 88,000 now live in orphanages. Since 2012, all but 235 of Rwanda’s 3,323 children in orphanages have been reunited with their families, adopted or placed in foster families.

These numbers show great progress. However, the global orphan crisis is still a serious problem. Millions of children are still living in orphanages. To give these children a better chance to thrive, governments and private organizations around the world must support family-care. In addition, governments can provide medical care to areas with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, helping parents living with the disease to care better for their children.

Programs that pull families and communities out of poverty will help reduce the number of parents who send children to orphanages. Poverty alleviation efforts have a crucial role to play in relieving the global orphan crisis.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

In September of 1997, Gloria Nieto and her husband, Angel, adopted a baby girl from China. They already had a 4-year-old biological daughter and wanted a second child. Adoption from a developing country seemed like a great option.

Adopting baby Irene was an arduous process—more than they believed it should have been. One big legal issue was that the Spanish government did not understand that the adopted children would have to become Spanish citizens.

When Gloria and Angel came back to their home in Spain, they met with other adoptive parents and decided to start a non-governmental organization that would help future Spanish adoptions from China. The group of adoptive families met in Madrid and made the NGO official. ANDENI translates into English as the National Association for Defense of Children.

There are two avenues for foreign adoption in Spain. One is through the government, the other is with private adoption agencies. ANDENI helps families adopting through the government.

The organization has a central office in Madrid. A small number of administrative people work there for a salary. The remaining workers are volunteers. Each part of Spain has its own leader that serves as a spokesperson and a source of guidance for families. Instead of having to contact the government for help, parents can contact their section leader.

Parents who begin the process of adopting from China join ANDENI by donating every three months or so to the organization. Donations are based on what the family decides it can pay—there is no obligatory donation amount.

The organization provides families with adoption assistance for every step of the journey. They learn what has to be done in Spain before they go to get their child as well as what has to be done in China. The organization helps parents fill out adoption papers, prepares them for their trip to China and provides them with a translator and a safe travel agency.

After parents successfully adopt their child, they become a part of the ANDENI community of adoptive families. The group supports each other and their adoptive children as they grow up. Both of Gloria and Angel’s daughters, Aida and Irene, now work with grown adopted children. Irene counsels teenagers on how being adopted affects their identity.

In its 18 years, ANDENI has helped 4,500 families. Spain is second to the U.S. in the number of children adopted from China. Proportionally, they are #1. Spain is currently home to 18,000 adopted Chinese children.

In recent years, Chinese adoptions have been slowing worldwide. There are fewer children in orphanages and the Chinese government gives priority to national adoptions. People that began the adoption process in 2006, are just now starting to get their children.

This is great news for orphans in China and suggests a positive outlook for poverty levels there. Yet for ANDENI, it means fewer families are joining and fewer volunteers are needed. Volunteer numbers have fallen from 2,100 at its peak to just 1,600. Many families have stopped paying since they have lost their jobs due to the Spanish economy.

To adapt, ANDENI began to focus on orphans and people living in poverty in China. They started collecting money to send to Chinese orphanages to pay for amenities like washing machines, air conditions, food, clothing, etc. One of the poorest providences in China, Yunnan, received enough money from ANDENI to build four schools and hospitals.

In total, ANDENI has raised and sent one million dollars to China. The organization collaborates with the Chinese government to ensure that the funds are doled out appropriately.

As for the future of ANDENI, Gloria’s family sees it collaborating with other NGOs helping orphans and others in need living in third-world countries such as Sierra Leone in Africa.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: ANDENI, ANDENI Valencia
Photo: Flickr