Small children in this big world depend upon parents to teach them, guide them, and protect them. However, many children in the United States and around the world do not have this privilege due to a myriad of circumstances illness, accidents, murder, and war, as well as migrant parents who travel for work and leave children behind. Orphans and left-behind children have no advocates unless caring adults are willing to step in and help them.
Orphans Through Illness
Around the world, adults perish from sickness daily. If they have children, those young people are left without protectors and advocates. Some may find their way into bleak, crowded orphanages, but many are left to fend for themselves as best they can homeless, isolated, and frightened. In Africa alone, thousands of children have endured seeing one or both of their parents died of AIDS, the most advanced form of HIV, a disease which attacks the body’s immune system.
According to statistics from several leading international organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of AIDS orphans grows by 70,000 every year. Those adults who die of AIDS and also are parents are often their families’ main wage earners, which means the children they leave behind are dependent upon others for help to survive.
Initiated by a French organization called SOS Enfants en Destresses, January 6 has been named World Day of War Orphans to bring attention to the millions of children around the world who have lost parents due to acts of war. In general, war orphans are rare in more developed nations, but in countries ravaged by fighting and violence, millions of children are left without parental caregivers.
For example, in Afghanistan today, after close to 30 years of fighting, there are more than two million orphaned children, with more than 600,000 living rough with no place to go. In Uzbekistan, a country with a turbulent history, thousands of children without parents wither away, alone and frightened, in overcrowded orphanages or else they face a solitary struggle to survive on the streets. Also in Uzbekistan, many children are left behind when their parents, who live as migrant workers, travel to earn money.
Alone From Other Causes
Getting firm numbers on exactly how many children in the United States and around the world are orphans due to accidents and murders is difficult. Numerous organizations have performed studies and gathered data with varying parameters. The numbers, however, are significant, and those children who are left behind when their parents die are at the mercy of adults who sometimes put profit first and are only too happy to exploit orphans. In China, for example, a former special operations soldier adopted hundreds of boys and forced them to participate in a fight club.
Around the world, in violent and war-ridden countries, children themselves are in physical danger from anti-personnel weapons such as landmines. In Afghanistan, more than 400,000 children have been maimed by landmines. There are many reasons why children may be left without parents, but there is one obvious fact. Orphans in the United States, Africa, Uzbekistan, China, and throughout the world are vulnerable to scores of dangers ranging from dreadful weapons to human greed.
Helping the Helpless
The situation, though tragic, is not hopeless. There are people who want to help parentless children and give them support and a safe haven. Besides physical needs such as food, water, and shelter, many orphans also suffer from psychological distress such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and they need loving care and gentle reassurances of security. Around the world, caring adults are acting on behalf of orphaned children.
Charitable foundations are one way for people to rally round and assist the most defenceless members of society. In Uzbekistan, for instance, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva founded the You are not Alone Foundation in 2002 to help children left without parents in Uzbekistan. The foundation also assists orphanages operating within the country. A diplomat and philanthropist, she is the daughter of the former Uzbekistan president, Islam Karimov. She has used her considerable influence to put her compassion for orphans into practical play by supporting, helping, and reassuring children who have seen much sorrow and loss in their short lives.
A Global Situation
While every country, unfortunately, has children who have lost parents to traumatic causes or situations, those nations most affected are less developed and torn by war, violence, and sweeping epidemics of fatal diseases such as AIDS. It is important to study the reasons and ramifications of conditions that kill wage-earning parents. However, children who have been orphaned need practical, hands-on help to enable them to survive both physically and mentally.
Around the world, from the United States to Uzbekistan to China and Africa, compassionate adults are acting and giving their time and finances to help orphans. Such assistance, in addition to providing needed food and lodgings, can reassure orphaned children they are not forgotten. This is something that all humans need, whether or not they have families.