The small mountainous nation of Lesotho, landlocked by its neighbor South Africa, is home to two million people. According to UNICEF, of these, more than 40 percent live below the international poverty line.

Lesotho is also home to the second highest adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world, leaving more than 150,000 children orphaned and under-prepared or unable to enter school.

In the rural districts of Lesotho, where three-fourths of the population resides, residents depend primarily on herding livestock and cultivating agriculture to support their families.

Unfortunately, food shortages aren’t uncommon in the region, and according to Lesotho’s Ministry of Social Development, during times of shock and hardship, children are often pulled from school, put to work in the fields and have less access to health care.

With the additional strain placed on relatives taking in children that have been orphaned or sent away by their families during hardships, the risk of worsening food insecurity often becomes a reality.

In 2009, the European Union joined forces with Lesotho’s government to create a program in support of orphaned and vulnerable children.

Simply titled, the Child Grants Programme (CGP), the project is designed to give cash grants to improve the nutrition, health care and education of vulnerable children.

Since its introduction, CGP has made a noticeable impact on the overall well-being of those who participate in the program. After receiving the grants, families are more able and likely to invest in the children in their care.

According to the most recent data from 2014, CGP is responsible for an increase in birth registrations by 37 percent, a 15 percent decrease in childhood death under the age of five and an increase in school enrollment of boys by 6 percent.

As a nation where nearly 23 percent of children ages 5-14 work, and where boys, in particular, are more likely to leave school in order to work, an increase in boys’ enrollment in school is a critical indicator in the program’s success.

Since March 2014, CGP has been extended to nearly 20,000 families throughout the nation. The Ministry of Social Development reported that CGP has not only benefit the direct recipients of the grants but also their communities.

“The CGP had a significant impact in strengthening the informal sharing arrangements in the community,” The Ministry reported, “particularly around food.”

The program, originally funded by donations in partnership with the European Commission and UNICEF-Lesotho, is now fully-funded and operated by the Lesotho’s government. Due to its success and positive results in the 10 districts in which it is currently operating, the government is considering offering CGP as a nationwide program.

Lesotho hopes that the program will begin to stimulate the economies of the beneficiaries by having an influx of cash to spend within their communities at local businesses as they purchase goods and services.

Although it is too soon to know if CGP will greatly change or transform Lesotho’s economy, the program has already benefited and elevated the lives of approximately 65,000 children.

Claire Colby

Sources: CIA World Factbook, Kingdom of Lesotho, The Guardian, UN, UNICEF
Photo: worldglobetrotters

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

orphanage tourismIt is thought to be an admirable and charitable act to engage in orphanage tourism in Southeast Asia. Those who hear of the desperate plight of children are often inspired to help.

A collection of orphanages allows tourists to come and view the children, a practice known as orphanage tourism. This type of tourism is contributing to the well-being of the tourism industry, albeit as “pet-an-orphan” type entertainment. Poverty-stricken children are often the subject of endless attention from tourists, and the attention is damaging.

Even with the increased traffic to these homes, one thing remains: children who live in orphanages still live in poverty. Orphanages have become a financially lucrative business.

Upon seeing advertisements, tourists may opt to participate in pre-arranged tours to visit either a few different orphanages or one specific orphanage. These tours are often booked through intermediates: hotels, taxicab drivers, tour companies and even at airports. In addition, those affiliated with the orphanages can be seen waving signs on the street that say “visit our orphanage.” Some are seen dragging “sample” children throughout the streets of tourist-filled bars. At night, they attempt to illicit business for the following day. Some tours are straightforward about the fee, while others advertise free orphanage dance shows, yet demand donations.

The orphanages typically charge an entry fee or a mandatory minimum donation which is collected by the tour company. Visitors have the option to bring gifts for the children they especially like. Prior arrangements are made between the tour company and each separate orphanage to receive a certain price per tourist. There are no visitor restriction policies that pre-screen individuals on the tours.

The ability to pay becomes the only requirement that needs to be met, despite the industry standard requiring background checks on all orphanage visitors in most countries prior to any contact with the children. Usually, unethical orphanages are hidden fronts for child abuse and child sex-trafficking. An orphanage that does not require a background check for a tourist prior to interacting with the children places the children directly at-risk.

Most of the children in the orphanages are not orphans. Countries, where malnutrition is rife amongst the population, have many parents who do not earn an income that will enable them to support themselves or their families. Desperate parents renting or selling their children to orphanages is a growing epidemic throughout Southeast Asia. In addition, research indicates that some parents are not suffering from extreme poverty yet still choose to sell their kids, treating their children like materials goods. This year in China, a father of three sold his sons for 30,000 yuan, or $4,797. He arranged the potential buyers before the children were even born.

Orphanage tourism is cruel, not compassionate, to the children. The children of these orphanages are economically exploited and vulnerable children are precious only because of their economic value.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Born to Bunk, China Daily, Huffington Post, CNN
Photo: Flickr

On April 3, the Middle East honored Arab Orphans Day with university campus-based movements to honor abandoned children. Students in Cairo held an event in which individual participants would treat an orphan like a younger sibling for a day, while Kuwaiti Minister of Planning and Development Hind Al-Sabeeh touted the legislation of protective laws

Orphans in Kuwait are one of the most disadvantaged groups in terms of legal protections. In addition to the initial injury of parental abandonment, these children suffer the stigma of “illegitimacy.”

Many in the Middle East discriminate against children born to unwed parents. Often, they base their prejudice on a misinterpretation of the Qur’an. Their choice can have deleterious effects, ranging from overt displays to more subtle denials of academic and job opportunities.

That said, Kuwait has made some significant strides. Abandoned children are first sent to social care facilities for 30 days while the Ministry of Social Affairs attempts to find their parents.

If and when the children are not found, they become wards of the State. In Kuwait’s case, state guardianship grants the orphans Kuwaiti nationality, free health care, fiscal stipends, and free housing.

Kuwait treats its orphans well. According to UNICEF, life expectancy for these orphans was 74.2 in 2012 and approximately 93.9 percent of orphaned youth are literate. The high literacy rate is largely due to a high enrollment rate in primary schools, which UNICEF estimates to be around 98 percent.

The disadvantage, though, lies in the wards’ legal inaccessibility. Once Kuwaiti orphans are declared as wards of the State, only Kuwaiti citizens can adopt them.

This is a particularly problematic law in part because of the popularity of non-White orphans among adopting couples in developed countries. Most of these adoptive parents are financially secure and outfitted to accommodate fewer children at a time, ensuring that the lucky adoptee gets the personal attention and care that she needs.

Kuwaitis may be generous with their aid to orphans, but no amount of generosity can replace parental love. The nation often acts as a mecca for wartime orphans, but its people usually cannot restore a child’s birth parents.

Furthermore, little is reported regarding the care of orphans once they age out of the institution. According to the ILO, the Middle East has some of the highest youth unemployment rates worldwide, with an average of one in four young adults out of work.

This statistic places additional pressure upon Kuwaiti citizens, who have to pay for orphan care through taxes. Kuwait’s economy may enjoy high incomes across the board, but as long as its neighbors suffer, the nation will be operating upon heightened political risk. If it becomes involved in its neighbors’ conflicts, the country’s orphans may very well become the first victims.

Evidence of orphan victimization has already made the news. In 2011, an anonymous blogger commented on a story run in Al Qabas about Kuwaiti orphanages that had been turned into brothels where rape, drugs, smoking, and prostitution were rampant.

While exaggeration by the media is not improbable, orphans remain one of the most frequently vulnerable groups. Kuwait, like its neighbors, is still in development and its media may not always be trustworthy. In any event, it is imperative that the reader checks the validity of news sources. Conditions in Kuwait may not be as rosy as recent propaganda may imply.

– Leah Zazofsky

Sources: KUNA, Middle East Eye, Muslim Observer, SOS USA, The Aggressor, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

bethany christian services global
Due in large part to the consequences of poverty, 150 million children around the world are considered orphans. Institutionalized care such as orphanages have been found to be anywhere from 20 times to 100 times more expensive than community-provided care. This community-provided care is available for some children who are taken in by extended family members, but these family members do not always have the resources to care properly for the children due the poverty rampant in their communities. This makes institutionalized care the usual and sometimes only option. In addition, children raised in orphanages are not likely to receive the individual care that children with families receive.

As the number of orphans has only increased with time, Bethany Christian Services Global has made it a priority to place children with foster families around the world. By partnering with organizations in vulnerable countries, Bethany Christian Services Global helped 100,761 children—including the potentially disenfranchised such as children with special needs— find loving and nurturing environments last year. Starting in 1944 for finding homes for U.S. orphans, the organization expanded their reach to up to 14 countries in 1980. They have even introduced the concept of adoption to countries where adoption was not originally considered an option due to their culture and traditions.

Bethany Christian Services Global advocates for the welfare of children in multiple ways by providing culturally-sensitive education and financial assistance to families willing to take care of an orphaned child in their community. They are one of the few (if not the only) U.S.-based adoption organizations that are allowed to bring together families internationally. From Albania to Uganda, the organization believes that a child can truly prosper when given a structured and loving family environment.

Not only is community-based care considered a better option fiscally and for a child’s welfare, Bethany Christian Services Global follows through by providing services for a family post-adoption, giving support to the families and adopted children for years to come. Every child deserves not just to have their basic needs met, but also a group of people who love and care for them. When a child is given this love and care, he or she can benefit them for a lifetime.

Melissa Binns

Sources:Bethany Global, Better Care Network
Photo: Our Quiet Hope

orphans in developing countries
Losing a parent is undoubtedly a traumatic experience for any child. It is an experience that will follow that child, likely playing a large role in their development and the opportunities they will have later in life.

Globally, 153 million children are orphans; the number of orphans in developing countries is enormous: 132 million. Here are 5 facts about the 132 million orphaned children in developing nations.

1. The large amount of orphans in developing countries is a result of many negative circumstances. Among these are natural disasters, famine and war. However, AIDS is the most significant reason children in a developing country lose their parents. In 2007 alone, AIDS left 15 million children orphaned after one or more of their parents passed away from the disease.

More than 24 percent of orphaned children had parents taken from them by AIDS. In 2008, 430,000 children were infected with the disease as well.

2. Asia holds the largest number of orphaned children, at 71 million – India alone is home to 31 million orphans. This is followed by Africa, which harbors 59 million.

3. Each day, 39,000 children are forced from their homes alone because of the death of a parent, family illness or abuse and abandonment.

4. After losing parents, circumstances for children drastically decline. They typically lack basic needs, like food and shelter. Education, however, is the first to be sacrificed, especially for older children who stop attending school to care for their younger siblings. These children try to provide for themselves and their younger siblings, often endangering their health.

The International Labor Organization reports that orphans are often found working in commercial agriculture, as well as street vending and housekeeping. Seven percent of orphans are stolen and sold into the sex industry.

5. The number of orphans is growing. Predictions for the next five to 10 years show the trend moving upward. By 2020, more than 200 million children could find themselves orphaned. This is almost three percent of the world population.

Despite the harsh reality of being orphaned in a developing country, it’s important to note that the rate of children becoming orphans in developing nations is finally slowing. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child has become the most rapidly and widely ratified human rights treaty in world history. It lays down a set of rights for each child and, as nations struggle to bring much needed care and protection to their orphans, provides pathways and options for each nation to do so.

Rachel Davis

Sources: Humanium, Moju Project, UNICEF
Photo: The Guardian

Since the Syrian civil war began to flare in 2011, more than 2 million Syrians have fled the country in order to seek refuge and safety. Most of the refugees — about 1,130,000 of them — have relocated to Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon. Other countries are granting immigration visas, humanitarian visas or loosening up their asylum grants in order to aid the cause.

José Mujica, president of Uruguay, has taken the cause into his own hands. He has decided to not only open up his country, but also his very home to 100 Syrian orphans, all put in their current position by the conflict. Although this appears to be an unusual and bold move, Mujica is the right man to execute it.

José Alberto Mujica Cordano spent the 60’s and 70’s as a member of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, where he was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail, only being released when Uruguay returned to a democracy in 1985. He believes his background and time spent in jail has helped form his outlook on life.

Mujica has been President of Uruguay since 2010. He has gained worldwide popularity as “The World’s Poorest President” because of his choice to donate 90 percent of his salary to charities and small entrepreneurs throughout the country, leaving his salary at about $775 a month. He drives a Volkswagon Beetle and lives in a farmhouse right outside of Montevideo with his wife, where they work the land themselves. He says this about his lifestyle:

“I’m called the poorest president, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” and “I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”

He also stated at the Rio+20 summit in June that if all countries consumed at the same rate as the rich ones, then we would be adding further harm to our planet. Thus, envying their status and wealth does nothing for them.

The plan is for the children to begin arriving around September from refugee camps in the Middle East. The exact number of people is still to be decided, since the Uruguayan government has to work out the expenses, and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) protocol calls for orphans to be relocated with at least one relative.

Mujica is facing a bit of backlash from the Uruguayan people because he deviated from the original plan to consult his constituents about the issue, but he made the decision without doing so. He is also getting bad reviews for doing this international aid move when there are orphans in Uruguay that need assistance as well.

Lucia Topolansky, Mujica’s wife, says their decision to take in the Syrian orphans is one to “motivate all the countries of the world to take responsibility for this catastrophe.”

The UN is hoping to relocate another 30,000 refugees this year, and if other countries follow José Mucija’s example, they may have success in the relocation process.

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: BBC, SHOAH, Elite Daily
Photo: The Guardian

It took the 2009 report of an eight-month-old boy being raped in an Accra care-house to alert Ghanaian officials that all might not be well with their country’s orphanages. Investigators of the rape discovered to their shock that, of the 32 children living in the orphanage, 27 were not orphans.

Since then, the Social Welfare Department has reported that only eight of the 148 orphanages currently in operation throughout the country are licensed, and that as many as 90% of the 4,500 children living in these homes have not lost both parents.

Young children are highly effective for fundraising. Ghana’s non-profit Child Rights International (CRI) estimates that a small orphanage could pull in as much as $70,000 a year with the vast majority of their funding coming from international donors and NGOs. However, CRI suggests that as little as 30% of yearly earnings are spent on child care.

Ghana isn’t alone in supporting a gross exploitation of children – roughly 28% of the 12,000 Cambodian children living in orphanages have lost both parents, and in Sierra Leone the number of true orphans living in a care-house is a minuscule 7%.

CRI’s Apiah explains that child-collectors target impoverished and rural communities where they “exploit the poverty and ignorance of parents” with promises of cash and an education for their children. There is a practice in some West African countries where poor families will send their children away to be cared for by relatives or caretakers who have the means to provide more for them, and many orphanages exploit this practice by having illiterate parents sign documents that sever all legal rights to their child.

“The problem stems from…systemic failure, which encourages the proliferation of unlicensed and unmonitored orphanage,” Apiah said. “These problems will be there as long as we continue to lack a firm social safety net to support poor parents to raise their children.”

Fred Sakyi Boafo, the National Coordinator of Orphanages and Vulnerable Children (OVC) has been pushing for placing children back in homes, whether with parents or surviving relatives, or with trained Foster Parents. He claims that when children stay in an orphanage rather than with a family unit it actually costs more to send them to school and provide care.

Joachim Theis, UNICEF head of child protection for West Africa, agrees when he says “A range of solutions, from safety nets to foster care to community care, have been shown to work, and re much cheaper than putting children in orphanages. Putting children into institutionalized care instead of a family setting must always be a last resort.”

It is also the responsibility of foreign donors and NGOs to thoroughly research the organizations they give money to as blind generosity is capable of causing more harm than good.

Lydia Caswell

Sources: Irin News, Ghana Web, Ghana Web
Photo: Orphan Aid Africa

When Katlin Jackson volunteered at an orphanage in Haiti, she expected to do a lot of important work.  What she didn’t expect was how her trip inspired Haiti Babi, an organization that aims to keep Haitian children in their homes and out of orphanages.
One in ten children in Haiti lives in an orphanage.  That’s nearly 500,000 kids who don’t live with their parents.  Many of them aren’t even orphaned; their parents just can’t afford to provide for them, so they are removed from their care and placed in orphanages.  As a volunteer, Katlin met and fell in love with one of these “orphans”.  One year old Sterly, like so many residents, had been taken from his parents not because they had died or mistreated him, but because they couldn’t afford a house, food, or basic medical care.
On a second trip to Haiti, Katlin was able to visit Sterly and his family after they had been reunited.  She was able to see firsthand the love in Sterly’s home, and that his parents wanted nothing more than to be able to care for and be with their son.  Katlin left Haiti with her mind made up that a loving family should not be forced apart due to poverty.  So she founded Haiti Babi, an organization that employs Haitian mothers wanting to provide for their children.
Haiti Babi, partnered with Second Mile Ministries in Haiti, enables Haitian moms to earn a reliable income for their family by knitting and crocheting artisan baby blankets.  Mothers around the world have the opportunity to support these women by purchasing their quality, handmade products online.  The sentiment behind the idea: moms helping moms.
So next time you’re in the market for a baby blanket, buy one that can warm your heart; a Haiti Babi blanket, handmade by a mother, doing everything she can for the children she loves.
Dana Johnson

Source: Haiti Babi