Orphans Worldwide

Some Statistics

UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents…             only 13 million have lost both parents. Evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of orphans are living with a surviving parent, grandparent, or other family member.  95 per cent of all orphans are over the age of five.

Taken from UNICEF Website, 21 August 2008

  • HIV/AIDS has orphaned 17.9 million children, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia (UNICEF).
  • Over 7 million children are in institutional care worldwide (Save).


  • In Egypt, 9 out of 10 children at our SOS Villages were born out of wedlock and abandoned (SOS).
  • In Zimbabwe, 66% of children in SOS Families have lost both parents (SOS).


  • Asia is home to the largest number of orphaned children in the world; 60 million, at last count (UNICEF).
  • In the Russian Federation alone, 140,000 children with disabilities live in institutional care (UNICEF).

Latin America:

  • There are 10.2 million orphaned children in Latin America, 5% of all children in the region (UNICEF).
  • Women and children are especially vulnerable in Latin America; underage minors represent 50% of people living in extreme poverty (World Bank).


  • There are over 120,000 orphans in America, while another 400,000 children live without permanent families (HHS; AFCARS).
  • It is common for children in foster care to age out*, leaving them with little financial or emotional support. 27,000 children age out of the system every year (AFCARS).
  • Almost 25% of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma or GED (University of Chicago).

Taken from SOS Children’s Villages USA Website. No date listed for above information.

*The term ‘aging out’ is often used to refer to children within the state foster care system who are still in the system upon reaching the age of eighteen, twenty-one or have graduated from high school. These children have not found permanency with an adoptive family or reunification with their birth family before aging out. The age varies from state to state.(about.com)

This lack of support after reaching a certain age can have severe consequences for many young persons (my observation).

No child under three years of age should be placed in institutional care without a parent or primary caregiver, according to research from 32 European countries, including nine in-depth country studies, which considered the “risk of harm in terms of attachment disorder, developmental delay and neural atrophy in the developing brain.”

Source: Childcentre.info (Executive Summary)

Children raised in orphanages have an IQ 20 points lower than their peers in foster care, according to a meta-analysis of 75 studies (more than 3,800 children in 19 countries).

Source: IQ of Children Growing Up in Children’s Homes A Meta-Analysis on IQ Delays in Orphanages

Published by Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Washington, DC

“4,000 Syrian refugee children who lost both their parents are trying to survive in the refugee camps. Between 1987 and 2007 1 million children were kidnapped by organ mafia. 300,000 children are currently used as child soldier around the World. Every year 4 million people who are mostly children and women are forcibly displaced because of human trafficking in or outside their country.

It is estimated that the number of children losing parents to AIDS will reach 25 million in 2015. 74% of orphans in Zimbabwe and 63% of orphans in South Africa have lost their parents due to AIDS.

Asia is the second after Africa with the highest rate of orphaned children due to AIDS. 1.1 million children in Asia lost their parents by AIDS. One child loses a parent to AIDS every 15 seconds.

When orphan children are not protected by their families, relatives or reliable institutions they face various life-threatening dangers. Human trafficking, given up adoption, child soldier recruitment, child labour, organ mafia, missionaries (both emphasis mine), getting involved in a crime, substance abuse are among the threats they face.

Every year 4 million people of whom are mostly women and children are displaced within or outside their countries because of human trafficking.

Child adoption sector is one of the biggest threats which orphans face (emphasis mine).

With 80 million disabled people, China has the largest disabled population in the world. Disabled children are abandoned in the streets.

…there are 100,000 Ukrainian orphans living on the streets because the orphanages do not have the space to accommodate them.

There are more than 700,000 orphans living in 2,000 state-run orphanages in Russia. According to the figures, in Russia only one in every 10 orphan children is able to integrate into society while the rest has varying rates of suicide, substance abuse, and crime. In Russia there are millions of children living on the streets, in the sewage holes*.

*Although no longer part of Russia, this also is the situation for homeless children in Mongolia.

(In their conclusion, IHH Humanitarian and Social Researches Center** Turkey, state):

When they fall prey to human traffickers, organ and prostitution mafia, begging gangs and missionary organizations that exploit children, it is very likely that orphans are entirely lost to the society.

** This organisation is suspected to have had links with Hamas (Wikipedia). It offers aid predominantly to Muslims, in contrast with Christian “missionary” organisations, who as a norm do not discriminate in their aid provision regarding religious status! (my addition)

Published July 2014

To come back to the topic of homeless children in Mongolia:

“The manholes, in which many of Ulan Bator’s nearly 3,000 street children live, are fetid places that lead either to the sewers or to the city’s heating system. Underground life does nothing to reduce the high incidence among the children of scabies, tuberculosis, urinary infections and sexually transmitted diseases. But at least it is warm. Ulan Bator is the world’s coldest capital city, with winter temperatures that can dip below -30°C. By leaving the covers open, the government acknowledges that the manholes have become life-savers. Indeed, aid workers say that deaths from hypothermia are more common in the summer, when a cold snap can catch the homeless off guard.

In communist days, the Soviet Union supplied subsidies that approached one-third of Mongolia’s GDP. As a result, Mongolia, though poor, had a decent enough social-welfare system, and few Mongolians fell through its cracks. Uranbileg Bergen, who works for the government’s National Centre for Children, says that in 1992—just after Mongolians threw off Soviet protection in favour of democracy and capitalism—there were just 300 known street children in all of Mongolia. The number is likely to reach 4,000 this year. The majority of children are driven on to the streets by plain poverty. Families may not be able to afford school books or uniforms, so their children drop out of school. They then hang out on the streets, earning money by begging, prostitution or theft.

Other families, particularly in the countryside, cannot afford to look after their children, who are sent to relations. Given Mongolia’s tradition of nomadic herding, it is not difficult for these children to be passed from one relation to another, until the parents have lost touch with them. Others are driven from home by strains within their families: by abusive, alcoholic fathers or by the consequences of parental divorce. Sometimes whole families are driven on to the streets, particularly if their ger, their most valuable possession, accidentally burns down. Poverty and family break-up have risen sharply during the “transition” from communism.

Miss Uranbileg believes that the roots of the problem lie with poverty. She says the NGOs are falling over each other to treat the symptom—the street children—but not the cause. Better to provide family support to help children stay at school, or to get them medical attention. Better still to provide the means for families to earn an income.

Several NGOs are trying. Save the Children Fund, which runs shelters in Mongolia to get children back into society, also pays for mobile kindergartens that follow nomadic herders. It has encouraged schemes for single mothers to earn money. The difficulty with such ventures, which often involve the provision of micro-credit, is that cash is scarce in Mongolia’s countryside. More successful, says Marc LaPorte of Save the Children, is a herd-restocking scheme.” (2010 February – Extreme cold kills so much livestock that the United Nations launches a programme to pay herders to clean and collect carcasses. This will help maintain living standards while disposing of possible sources of disease. BBC News, May 2014)

Yet money remains a problem. The average Mongolian household earns less than $400 a year. The government is bust. Miss Uranbileg has files on 4,000 families that her department has identified as being most in need of “sponsorship”, or the $20 a month they need to keep children at school. Last year 400 of those families were promised such sponsorship, but the money from the central government dried up after only two months. The National Centre for Children itself, responsible for all aspects of children and child poverty, has an annual budget of only $100,000. Of the original 4,000 families, says Miss Uranbileg as she pushes the dossiers back in the cupboard, only 30 are currently getting any money at all.”

Ulan Bator, The Economist, Jan 20th 2000

“Mongolia has an extreme climate, with a temperature range to suit. Drought and unusually cold and snowy winters have decimated livestock, destroying the livelihoods of thousands of families.” BBC News, 22 May 2014

I have chosen to focus on the above group of often orphaned homeless children because one hardly ever hears about Mongolian orphans, in opposition to Brazil’s orphans which have been recently in the limelight, due to the World Soccer Cup.

Like with the problem of world refugees, the world does not have any viable answers to the growing numbers of orphans and millions fall through the cracks, despite valiant efforts by aid organisations.

We need to cry out to our Lord on their behalf, for they are part of the voiceless poor!

Isaiah 58:6-7 “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Compiled by Pia Horan, 17 July 2014

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