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Blown Away

Today I was blown away. Why one might ask, with all the various issues, that families are faced with in Africa? What could possibly blow me away. Women who are suppose to be mothers that literally throw their children down the toilet, or pit latrine as we call it in Africa. Yes, I have moved to a new area to start a new position at a University as a consultant initially which is later to become a permanent position. That is beside the point. I decided to explore my neighborhood. I stopped at what I thought was a little cafe, only to find out it was an international organization that offers several other services, with the cafe being their income generating project to support their clinic, school, orphan and now baby orphan. What I discovered blew me away. That a woman, a compassionate, caring and nurturing being could be pushed to the point of displaying cruelty to her own offspring? Rape, maltreatment by husband, mate or family? Who knows, but the bigger crime is the child knowing they were dropped in a toilet left for dead.

Many of the children will have serious psychological damage just knowing that they were valued so little. Next week, I plan to return to visit them along with my son to spend some time with the babies in particular. I used to volunteer in Ethiopia at an orphanage, and really enjoyed my work there.

While I am speaking of orphanages, I want to alert you to a growing problem of NGO abuse among orphaned children. I recently met a psychologist who worked for several orphanages who shared with me some of the abuses that have been taking place, and I wanted to clear it from my consciousness to get feedback from my sister-friends, you. At any rate he shared that some of the orphanages that are collecting donations and funding for HIV positive children, actually conduct a screening on the children and those found to be positive are sent away, because they don't want to deal with the high cost and care of dispensing medication, and dealing with the possible spread of the disease. Additionally, he communicated that many of the so called orphans actually have family members, who have allowed them to go to the orphans because they are not financially able to care for them. One such orphan is one that teaches the children dance, however the children are made to dance sometimes from 3-7 in the morning and end at 7pm at night with very little food. Apparently the dance instructor is a drunkard who will wake the children in the middle of the night to begin their dance lessons. The children are taken to different foreign countries, where lots of money is raised, yet the children are practically being starved, while the top administrative staff are living in luxury at 5 star hotels and eating at expensive restaurants. My friend is a whistle blower who has tried on several occasions to stop the abuse only to find himself out of a job. In addition to the above, many of the children are being physically and sexually abused.

Where are the safe places for children. Unfortunately, I have not heard many great stories about children living in orphanages, that is why they have been discontinued in the west and replaced with foster care situations. I am sorry for sharing such negative information, but the truth must get out there in order for justice to find its proper way. So, much for me being blown away, when so many children are being put through so much pain and horror. Wish I had a solution for my friend to turn to when he encounters such events.

If I had the funds, I would open a safe house for children myself!!


pooza11's picture

Wish you all the best! I will

Wish you all the best! I will pray for your wish to come true.

Carri Pence's picture

Wonderful Entry

I appreciate your words and wisdom of orphan children in Africa. It disturbs me to understand that children are manipulated or abandoned for money. The structure and foundation of these institutions are crumbling due to the lack of support, as seems, by the government and other NGO's. Thus, corruption will continue unless there is severe action against the orphanages that neglect human rights. Though it is important to note that the U.S. does in fact have orphanages but the U.S.'s are just better maintained and don't violate human rights as African orphanages do. Though we also have foster care, which is different that orphanages, due to it being a minor that is cared for usually by an institution or home but in some cases can go back to their parents if their parents are suitable for taking care of their children. Usually foster children, even in the U.S., have a hard time coping with life
With love and support,
Carri Pence

jadefrank's picture


Dear Dr. Edonna,

Thank you for raising this important issue and for reminding us to do our homework when supporting NGOs, especially those that work with children or orphans. It is so sad to think there are people out there who subject orphans, our most vulnerable children, to such abuses is the guise of helping them.

I would love to hear from some other women in our community about orphanages they work with or know of in their communities that are doing good work and that can be models for others.

In friendship,

Riruta UW Empowerment Programme's picture


Yes, what Dr. Edonna has observed about African orphanages is quite true. Though not all, majority of them don't meet the national leave alone international standards.Some are poorly managed that you are left thinking these kids would be better of in forster homes than being in such orphanages. As much as I want to agree that majority are found on meagre resources, many are poorly handled with resources not reaching the intended beneficiaries. I have seen some orphanages where children as many as six sleep on a 90kg sugar sack and cover one blanket. The argument is that they have the heart to help but they don't have enough means.

We have also had cases of child molesting in some of the orphanages. The male workers and volunteers end up sexually abusing these minors because they are vulnerable.

It is very common to come across abandoned foetus in compost pits or in pit latrines here in Kenya. Mothers abort and put the babies in polythene bags and dump them leaving them for the dead. When caught they say it is not their wish to throw these babies but life dictates; they can't afford to take care of the babies. This means alot has to be done in terms of awareness in terms of the consequences of abortion.What is interesting is that most these children were conceived out of the parents own volition because at that time the mother was just thinking of how to get a meal. She never thought of the long term implications. When the truth dawns on her she runs for the quick evil solution-abortion. Most children in orphanages are not orphans as such because both parents are alive only that they chose to neglect their parental roles for some reason.

Poor screening also makes the genuine orphans be locked out and those pausing as orphans are taken in. I have come a cross cases where a mother states that she is an aunt to a child and that the this child is an orphan. On serious scrutiny, she owns up saying that is the only way she would get her child assisted!

I know of one orphanage here in Kenya(that carters for HIV positive kids)that had a hard time in enrolling its kids in 'normal' schools because the argument from these schools' management was that the kids from the orphanage could infect their children with the virus. It took the government's intervention to have these kids enrolled in these schools. To me this is stigmatization and these children feel they are not wanted by other members of the society.

Our school-Children of Africa Hope Mission has not been spared of the stigma. When job seekers reach our school and we tell them the kind of children they are going to serve, majority don't come back the second day. They feel dealing with the Aids orphans will make them be infected with the virus. Even children from neighboring schools don't feel comfortable interacting with our kids because they feel they could be infected with the virus.

I think space and resources should dictate to one the number of children to take in. There is no need taking in so many children while you know that your facility can't accommodate all.I suggest that if you don't have the capacity to house these orphans, then let them be housed in their foster homes and support them from there instead of congesting them in one poorly constructed/furnished structure.

The donors should also put up stringent measures to make sure funds are well utilised and reach the benfeciaries.They can have their officers on the ground to make a follow up. It has been done in some cases and it worked well.

Many children's homes are isolated and don't let the outside world see what they are doing, this makes them not be accountable. Those that are subject to inspection every now and then try as much as possible to meet the required standards.It is upon the governments to crack down on all orphanages to make sure they meet the required standards. Impromptu checks would help.

This does not mean that NGOs are not doing good work. Some are doing commendable work and have given orphans and vulnerable children hope and purpose in life. I have visited several homes here in Kenya that are either run by NGOs or CBOs and I have admired the commendable work they are doing. Many children have at least what they can call a home and even parents to see them through life.

Induction courses for the orphanage proprietors and their workers are vital for the children they are taking care of. Running an orphanage is a vocation though many have taken it as business thus giving less attention to the child.

Anne Khadudu Baraza,
CEO- Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme
+254 729880651/ 020 2602803
!27-00502 Karen, Nairobi Kenya

Dando's picture

This is heartbreaking, I

This is heartbreaking, I really can't understand why some one would take a homeless child in the name of helping them yet abusing them. It is really sad what is happening in our developing countries.Too bad for the poor children.
Thanks for bringing this up.

with love

dr edonna's picture

You are Right!

It is heartbreaking and that is why I shared it, because it is also shocking. Thank you Anne for exposing all sides of the issue. That is why I am returning next week to see what is happening to this particular orphanage, because I feel it is my duty to make sure our children are not being violated. I feel it is my personal duty knowing the possibilities.

Thanks so much for all your comments, it shows you really care, and I am sure my friend who shared the story with me will be glad to know he is not the only one who knows the truth.

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