Orphans of Poverty


SAN MARCOS, California — Poverty is believed to be the leading cause of orphaned children around the world.

It is widely understood that orphanages house children who have lost one or both parents due to war, disaster or illness, but according to UNICEF, approximately four in five orphans have at least one living parent—and sometimes both—who cannot care for his or her child. The central reason why these children with living parents are being orphaned? Poverty.

As a result of poverty, basic needs for survival such as food, water, health, shelter and education are not met. Families of orphaned children struggle with providing proper care for their children and therefore, may feel as though they have no other choice but to place them in an orphanage.

According to recent UNICEF reports, there are an estimated 153 million orphans worldwide under the age of 18. In some countries, the rate of orphans by poverty stands even higher—for example, 95 percent of orphans in Indonesia, 90 percent of orphans in Ghana and 90 percent of orphans in Lebanon are orphans of poverty. However, it is also important to note that these statistics do not take into account children abandoned on streets, sold into trafficking or forced into labor.

Millions of children worldwide have lost their families due to poverty, conflict, disease and war, which oftentimes cause family members to give up or abandon their children to orphanages. However, people who live in an impoverished environment with little to no economic stability, education and infrastructure have a difficult time supporting orphans. Living in a community with high poverty rates will affect the orphanages that exist within it and thus will affect the children’s way of life.

Although children who become victims of poverty are placed in the system, where minimal needs such as food, water, clothing and shelter are provided, it is only a matter of time before they are too old for the orphanage. In that case, what happens once these children outgrow the system and are placed back on the streets? Are they left behind to fend for themselves?

The answer: they will most likely be unable to care for themselves. Once children outgrow and leave the orphanage and are no longer under its care, they are oftentimes uneducated, vulnerable and unprepared. The problems that placed them in orphanages in the first place can haunt them when they leave. Basic needs such as shelter, food, water and health can once again become a scarcity. It may be increasingly difficult to become independent and create a life outside of poverty. These children will eventually be forced to live on the streets and may become more prone to a life of crime and poverty. Without economic opportunities or assistance to direct them out of poverty the cycle will continue.

Because of the direct link between poverty and orphans, guiding people out of poverty will reduce the amount of children who reside in orphanages. Ultimately, reducing global poverty will also decrease the number of orphans, until there will no longer be orphans of poverty.

Nada Sewidan

Sources: Orphan Hope International, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, World Bank
Photo: Flickr


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