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Foundlings in Sudan…Sad Realities and Uncertain Future!

A grim future awaits foundlings, or abandoned children, in northern Sudan. Left by unknown parents they have no family name, no right to adoption, no papers, and no future. Since they can’t attend school, these children often end up on the streets, ripe fruit for the terrorists, drug dealers, gangs, and child molesters who prowl them. Sadly, lack of official recognition of foundlings keeps the situation out of national headlines. In brief, they are deprived of the most basic rights laid down by heavenly laws and provided by the Convention On The Rights Of The Child.

Khartoum, the most expensive city in the world, remains the center of attraction for displaced people.
With its concentration of infrastructure and essential services, such as education and health, Khartoum, is also a main destination for the unwanted children.

Abandoned toddlers need food and a warm bed, but there are only three places in Khartoum that rescue foundlings from the streets. One of them, Mygoma Orphanage, cares for children until they are adopted or sent elsewhere when they reach five years of age. The house was established in 1961 with an initial capacity of 400. By 2008 the number rose to 2000. Of those, nearly 10% die yearly. Because Mygoma has no formal financial support outside of private donations, it relies on voluntary activities to guarantee the flow of services to the children. Thus, the absence of formal financial support puts the whole situation at risk.

What causes devout, hard-working Sudanese to abandon their children?

Economic, social and religious morays are factors driving the abandonment trend. Drought, desertification, famines, unemployment, lack of infrastructure, broken families, 50 years of war, and tribal tensions drive migration to urban centers, where economic conditions cast a shadow on urban dwellers. An official report released recognitionently cited poverty rates between 55 and 90 percent.

The high costs of marriage in Sudan often delay marriage. Although pre-marital sexual relations are forbidden by Islam and leveled to adultery, the "dumping” of children implies that this restriction is not much heeded. Perhaps this explains the bottlenecks and the accumulation of abandoned children in the shelters in Mygoma, Sajjana and Daw Hajouj in Omdurman, west of Khartoum.

In turn, Depending on adoption isn't a solution. Adoption, as defined in western terms, is prohibited by Islam and replaced by 'kafala' fostering for both orphans and foundlings. Yet Islam, encourages Muslims to treat the orphans and foundlings as they would do with their biological children except giving them the rights of a name and heritage.

Unlike orphans, foundlings are generally not adopted by other families. Although adoption, or kafala, promises huge rewards in the afterlife, society, paradoxically, turns a blind eye to foundlings because they are infants of an unmarried couple, known as 'sifah'. Instead it chooses to “preserve lineage and legitimacy, inheritance, solidarity, extended family and commitment to marital status", the elements of prevention given by Islam.

Sudan must both find a way to care for the current generation of foundlings and stop the trend by addressing its root cause. First, Sudanese in the north must soften their stance towards foundlings and try to bring them into their homes. Second, the health service providers should teach sexual awareness and the use of contraceptives in a way that preserves the society. Third, a law should be implemented that secures the safe handing over of foundlings to the police, local authorities, or orphanages. And finally, the use of technology to identify parents is important as well.

Newborns that are dumped and left helpless and defenseless reflect the dark side of society. Looking at abandoned children as people fully entitled to civil rights, reintegration and a normal life is critical to the true virtue of society. Prosperity, progress, and equality of all people should be the top priorities of the state.

I believe that failure to pay the necessary attention to these children robs the present and future with premeditation.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.


Dando's picture

Graet work!

I enjoyed reading your Oped. I think you have done a great job on it.
All the best.

with Love!

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture


Hi Dando,

thank you so much for passing, reading and sharing this valuable comment. Your comment which was the first raised my morale filled my day with joy..You made my day girl.. You too you did a great and perfect job..

thank you so much.



julia sawi's picture

very brave

Thank you very much, I appreciate your bravery and commitment to tackle a taboo issue of vital importance to a large segment of kids abandoned or dumped.
But for it's a complicated problem , in fact this is a problem of our society ,many people are trying to ignore it or many be they are trying to live with it, but nobody at least have the bravery to talk about it or step forward to it fix .
there is many people who would love to take care of abandoned children but the government left no choice to people to help, most of the people in sudan are hungry, so tell me who will think about feeding others?! I think they will but it their mouth before taking it to abandoned children.
As you said : (raising sexual awareness and the use of contraceptives could be effective .....etc ) may help but, I think it will encourages the new generation of young people unemployed for adultery, but Increase awareness in the community and fill the leisure time of young people will help me more and the use of technology to identify parents would be important as well to force them to be responsible for what they did.
Thank you very much again for the interesting subject.
God bless you

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Which is which?

Julia, i am envious of your generation who enjoys technology and the open space to communicate and share ideas, comments and solution to chronic problems as such.

i valued your comments and i enjoyed your critic. let me quote your comment first and then give an answer :" As you said : (raising sexual awareness and the use of contraceptives could be effective .....etc ) may help but, I think it will encourages the new generation of young people unemployed to commit adultery,"

Which better Julia, to encourage using contraceptives or to have as a result an unwanted infant thrown in the garbage dumps, prone to die of suffocation because of the burning of waste, or left in the grave yards to stray dogs?

Moreover, this story is an outcome of many factors interweaving and have their effect on people and the result is well known to those who are living or following the Sudanese affairs. Exclusionary policy in recruitment and development applied by the sitting government since 199s, , has had a major role in the economic downturn and the growing number of negative phenomena, including the one we are talking about.

I agree with you reducing the rate of unemployed people , especially the young generation will be of great help. But still there are other relevant issues to be tackled.

Again thank you so much... I enjoyed reading your rich comments.



Jennifer Ruwart's picture


This is an excellent op-ed. Just when I was thinking, "But, what does SHE think, bam! You tell me." Bravo!

My opinion is that you and Julia have touched on that point in the conversation that often breaks down. For Julia, she is concerned that teaching sexual education to young people will encourage them to have sex. Your response that this is a better alternative to abandoned children and is THE question, no?

I know that for me personally, I wish my mother had really talked to me about sex. All of it. Not just penetration, but everything that goes along with it. From menstruation to menopause. From "not tonight honey, I've got a headache" to orgasms. but, for that to have had happened, her womanhood would have had to been honored by her own mother. My mother grew up with horrible, debilitating menstrual cramps that her parents insisted were "all in her head." I am certain they never talked about sex.

Without full information, it is very difficult for a woman or man to make the right choice, no matter where they are.

I am curious if you know much about this situation in Southern Sudan since you mention this is most prevalent in the north? If its lower in the south, why do you think? Just curious.

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful feelings and informative comment..Your comment has a produced a magic effect on me.

As I said in my assignment, this situation is found mainly in the north and the center..It doesn't exist in the south where
Ideological and social and traditions are highly tolerant. Even the Muslim society in the war-torn region of Darfur, in the western part of Sudan, proved to be tolerant and hasn't got rid of the fatherless children who are the outcome of rape. I quote one of the men as saying in one of my articles I published 4 years ago in (, that the clan would monitor them, if they (the infants) prove to have the same genes as their parents and that they would do the clan some harm," we will not allow them to living among us".

Love and hugs,


jadefrank's picture

Save the Children


What a powerful piece! You have done a wonderful job of explaining the issue of child abandonment from every angle - from the reasons for abandonment to the stumbling blocks for adoption. You've written this piece with a great global perspective - so that people like myself who are unfamiliar with Islamic law and practices, can wrap their minds around the issue of child abandonment: why it's happening and why it's a problem, as well as why it's not an easy issue to solve. You've also provided some good insight as to your own thoughts on how best to solve the issue.

I applaud you for taking on such a heavy and complex issue as child abandonment in Sudan. It's heartbreaking to think of these innocent children, left to fend for themselves in an uncertain world and to be stigmatized for life with no rights to heritage or property. Truly heartbreaking.

Thank you for bringing this issue to the international community and for breaking it down so that we can begin to comprehend this problem and look for solutions. Thank you for giving the orphans of Sudan a voice.


Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Million thanks Jade

Valued Jade,

Thank you so much for reading my Op Ed and sharing this rich comment and appreciating the voice of the fatherless children in Sudan.
As you said, heritage and a family name; these conditions are applicable to abandoned children in all over the Muslim world.
But there is something else. The head of the fostering family can give him (abandoned adopted infant) part of his property or fortune during his lifetime or he can leave a will indicating his intention to do so, in a way that doesn't affect the rights of his legitimate heirs. This is however, allowable in Islam. I repeat this part (but not the father's first name or the family name). Except that Islam has recommended treating them in a good manner but not to fully adopt them.
Concerning Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who was an orphan, when tried to adopt a young man, Allah addressed him saying:
(…) "Call them [i.e., the adopted children] by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, they are your brothers in religion…" [Quran 33: 4-5].

Again thank you so much for your rich comment.

Love and hugs,


julia sawi's picture

very bad situation

Dear halima
I get your point, and I know knowledge is light and power as well ,use of contraceptives is good idea and effective somehow and also may protect from pregnancy of unwanted children, but have you ever been lately to any of the universities in sudan ? and do you know there is a price list of all kind of sexual activities starting with a kiss it cost 5 jenah and so on till intercourse which will cost 50 jenah plus a Condom , and also they have time for every thing, so please tell me now why we should give this people one more reason to go forward ? Do you know the number of illegal marriage among university students ? Are you aware of a number of rape cases in sudan ? where is the government from all of these?
why the government is not helping people to fix some of the problem by allow the to have safe abortion at least they do not have to deliver a child for the first place, do you know how many girls die every year in sudan because of this ? it' a very complicated problem and I think there a lot do and it's will take time but I hope the government give those children a names and future, it's not their fault to be born.
all love

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture


Dearest Julia,

I have a good idea about the situation in Sudan, All examples you cited here are natural outcome of the economic deterioration... I believe that no woman accept (voluntarily) to trade her body for money.. NO and 1000 NO... What is happening in educational institutions is result of cancellation of the board housing system or the free accommodation, free food, fee transportation , free education, plus centering of all education facilities and job chances in the capital.. all the country moved to the capital and present a pressure to limited facilities. So the capital rose to (5000000 population). As a result, life becomes impossible without having money in hand. How can one gets money when policies adopted were still based on excluding opponents... what is expected in such circumstances? "If poverty had been a man i would have killed him". Unfortunately that wasn't the case and won't be.
Let us go back to your argument and put the same question I asked in my answer to your previous comment..WHICH IS BETTER TO AVOID UNWANTED PREGNANCIES OR TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF UNWANTED CHILDREN? WHICH IS WHICH?

This situation is just like or/it could be a vicious cycle? Could we get out with the least damage? That is the challenge!

asha's picture

Third generation view!

Salam Halima,
You have done a tremendous job with this report Halima, not surprisingly. Your contributors who represent totally different cultures, enriched your dialougue with Julia. I don't want to be the ostrich that burries its head in the sand! But I think you have all carried the issue a step further and as it has already gone far , your step has crossed the bounderies of the social construction of the Sudanese society.Don't forget that you eleminated the West and the South as 'tolerant'.
The family is the strongest institution of Sudan...So, restoration should begin there. Even the government Julia must come into this problem at the request of the family. Poverty in our community has, until recently, never been the reason for break up; on the contrary bondage between members of family and their fusion in the community has always covered up for their needs.
The problem could be media and cultural 'loans' through vd and internet etc. Who should control this? FAMILY.
Parents should know so much about their kids that would have saved the community more than the building of palaces and ownership of property.
And yes, Jennifer, sex education is important but not for the reasons you mentioned for our children learn that at primary level as part of Rligious Education!!It is important info for prayers and fasting etc.. and cut me short Halima.Love to all.


Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Valued Ustaza

Valued Ustaza Asha,


Thank you so much for this important comment. i will be back soon.



Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Poverty and Politics.

Dear Asha,

Salamu alaiki,

Sorry. I was terribly busy. In the morning I was busy in office and in the evening i was busy preparing the final draft of the assignment ..

Going back to our subject. I didn’t get your point on media and internet. But let me say something ; media with all its divisions plays a significant role in highlighting and alerting the society before it is late. This is exactly what I am doing now. And you are not far from this area by virtue of vast experience and knowledge and contact with other advanced cultures.

I believe that poverty and impoverishment are to blame. They come in the first place, followed by wars, tribal tension and the wrong policies that have taken place and led the country to a devastating war that cost million their lives and disabled the use of the country's resources. have you ever had a quick look at the displaced camps or slums that surround Khartoum? Am sure you did look at the Slums that swarming with the disadvantaged and poor people who have no jobs or sources of steady incomes. NO FUTURE!! Not at all.

A segment that finds a great difficulty to make the two ends meet. They are deprived electric current, TVs, radios, internet, vd, etc. instead they are living in noisy, smelly or fetid, garbage, attacks and the list is an endless. Agreat change is taking place..And as outcome; the city is growing constantly, as well as the countryside is continuously deteriorating. No need to remind you how these situations affect community, extended family and all sectors of life at large. Period.

I absolutely agree with you, that extended family was the major factor in the stability of the society. I also support your important call to pay attention to the family because it is the pillar and core of the society. Restoring the previous image and function of the family will be of great value. I say restoring, if possible, because this image has been damaged. Where is the extended family now? Not in Khartoum, Not in Obeid, Not in Fasher or Niyala, Not in Juba, or the far north!

ِA quick comparison between me and my mother when she was in the same situation gives an explanation. She was living near her mother , aunts, cousins and uncles who had helped her a lot in upbringing us, materially and morally .. Look at where I am currently.

For the first time in history Sudan witnesses exodus migration or displacement to urban centers or abroad, in a manner that hadnot been known before. No need to tell.

Again thank you so much for this informative and an intelligent debate and i hope to see you again..



Nusrat Ara's picture

it has shaped out well. Love

it has shaped out well.



Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

encouraging comment


Thank you so much for passing and sharing this encouraging comment.



asha's picture

Total Agreement Different Priorities!

Well argued Halima, very convincing too.
I agree 100% to the first part of your argument; and you seem to agree to my family theory in the second part .
We differ in which situation is the immediate cause for the foundlings and other similar problems in Sudan.
The loss or the change in family values and ways of thinking created by media alerted ambitions lead to the search for far fetched means that resulted in weakenning the Family Institution...(this is where I used media as one of the factors), especially when it depends on data collected by unreliable sources.
The situation is critical, no matter how it was reached , no question about that. It was some of the solutions you reached that I am not in agreement with.


sarita's picture

Dear Halima, I came across

Dear Halima,

I came across this site while researching abandoned children in Sudan and I'm very impressed with the way you presented this story. Things are getting better for the Maygoma children as I see that there is a growing interest in making life better for the children there. As far as I know once they reach the age of four and if they are not taken in by families, they are moved to houses for young children.
I always wondered how these children can be integrated into Sudanese society once they reach adulthood because as you know ,the stigma of being illegitimate children or (awlad haram) will never leave them. So although interested individuals like myself can donate money and time to help them grow into healthy educated adults they will never escape from this horrible situation they've been placed in through no fault of their own. How will they get a job, get married or live a normal live without people whispering behind their backs or worse calling them names to their face? As you mentioned, Islam does not allow adoption and the state does not allow non muslims or foreigners to adopt from the north (please correct me if I'm wrong) so what hope do these innocent children have of ever being normal? I wish the people who brought them into this world would have thought about their fate for a second before abandoning them.

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