Why Abandoned Children Can Have Hope

Amid all the suffering in today’s modern world, children are often right at the heart of the issue. Unable to defend themselves or fight for their rights, they rely on those who can to protect them and provide them with the care they need and deserve, especially when they’ve been orphaned or abandoned.
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The good news in this difficult area is that there are inspiring points of light worldwide, organizations and people who are working each and every day to ensure that no child has to be left on his or her own. In this article, you'll learn more about the problem and how one charitable organization is making a difference in the country of Uzbekistan. Becoming informed about the issue is the first step towards making a difference.</p>

The Scope of the Problem

The UN agency UNICEF estimates that as of 2015, there were 140 million orphaned children worldwide. The organization defines an orphan as a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death. While that figure is overwhelming, it is heartening to know that there are groups and associations working throughout the world to assist them.

Child abandonment is also a major issue facing countries worldwide. Children may experience what is known as open abandonment or secret abandonment at birth. In both cases, the child is left without parents to care for him or her. In the European Union, this is a problem that occurs primarily in countries such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Poland, according to figures from the European Commission’s Daphne Initiative, which was launched in 1997 and provides funding to NGOs to support victims of violence and combat violence against women and children. 

The Orphanage Issue

Many countries around the world have discontinued the practice of housing abandoned and orphaned children in structures known specifically as orphanages, due to the many perils and problems associated with these institutions. Particularly in countries like Romania and Turkey, children housed in these structures have been found severely undernourished and suffering from illnesses ranging from mental illness to physical ailments as a result of neglect and mistreatment, according to Laurie Ahern of Disability Rights International.

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post called Orphanages are no place for children, Ahern describes the horrific conditions she’s witnessed in more than 20 years working in the field. She cites statistics that estimate that there are between 8 and 10 million infants and children living in orphanages worldwide, many of whom are left to starve because there is no one to feed them. Ahern states: "We need a paradigm shift in how we help vulnerable children".

Foundations Making a Difference

Given the seriousness of the problem on a global scale, charitable foundations and NGOs worldwide are working on a daily basis to provide assistance and support to children who have been abandoned or orphaned and left without parental care. One such foundation is led by a permanent ambassador to the United Nations organization UNESCO, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva. Karimova-Tillyaeva, in addition to her extensive work as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to UNESCO, a role to which she was appointed in 2008, has created various foundations that directly benefit children. Her &ldquo;You Are Not Alone&rdquo; foundation is one of these organizations, and it works with orphaned and abandoned children   

Working For Uzbekistan’s Future

The You Are Not Alone Foundation has been active since 2002 in the country of Uzbekistan, and its stated mission is to "provide comprehensive assistance and support to children left without parental care". After a comprehensive evaluation of the country’s orphanages, the foundation set about to create what it calls Mercy Homes, a project that has refurbished hundreds of the country’s orphanages to give them state-of-the-art facilities including sports fields, medical units, and playgrounds, all based on international best practices.

Karimova-Tillyaeva also founded the National Centre for the Social Adaptation of Children, NCSAC, in Uzbekistan, to provide extensive assistance to children with disabilities. The work of the two organizations complement each other, as there are often children in orphanages who are faced with disabilities and need assistance in providing for their special needs. NCSAC provides all the services of its specialists, from speech therapists to neurologists to psychologists and special education professionals, entirely for free.

The Way Forward

Innovative foundations worldwide are providing a guiding light to help stem the difficulties faced by infants and children who have been abandoned or left orphaned. While the foundations mentioned above are just one example of how this problem is being addressed in Uzbekistan, there are many others across the globe that are doing worthwhile charitable work that makes a difference. One way you can get involved is by educating yourself on the issue and then taking simple action. Although the problem is overwhelming, when everyone does their part, great change can be made with positive results.