Out of Nepal’s population of 31 million, 11.5 million are children. A staggering one million of these children are orphans; meaning almost nine percent of all Nepalese children are .
Due to the lack of a nurturing family, most orphans will struggle to access clean water, food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education. In the absence of these essentials, a vulnerable child will struggle to survive, let alone go on to live a well-rounded life.
Causes of Abandonment
The high levels of child abandonment stem from parents’ deaths, poverty, sickness, parents remarrying, and poor living conditions. Death is not an uncommon concept in Nepal [link to Nepal page] due to repeated earthquakes that destroy whole communities, leaving thousands dead and as many as a million children parentless.
Similarly, these earthquakes devastate people’s livelihoods, leaving those already in poverty in even more challenging circumstances. As a result, many give up their children as they cannot afford to support them. Furthermore, if people do survive these devastating earthquakes, they are often left with life-changing injuries and illnesses. Therefore, rendered unable to care for a child, meaning that more children are being deserted due to the detrimental effect of the environment.
Orphan Homes in Nepal
In response to the high number of orphans across the country, Nepal hosts multiple orphan homes. Despite this, these homes cannot accommodate a large number of orphans, leaving many vulnerable children on the streets.
This is because children are often deliberately segregated from their families and sent to orphan homes to appeal to donors. When children who have parents living in poor conditions are placed into orphan homes, there is limited space available for children that are genuinely orphaned.
The Risks of Children Residing in Orphan Homes
Though orphan homes are better alternatives to living on the streets, they are not an ideal solution for healthy child development. Unfortunately, children in orphan homes are more susceptible to mental, physical, and sexual abuse. This is because many tourists volunteer in orphan homes whilst visiting Nepal and they are not required to undergo necessary checks or ample training. This puts the children at risk as the staff are not properly selected or monitored.
Additionally, it is common for orphans to develop attachment disorders, which hinders their ability to form healthy relationships in later life. Tourist volunteers worsen the effects of this, as they will spend enough time with the orphans to form bonds and relationships. And then, once their trip comes to a close, they will leave, contributing to already existing fears of abandonment.
With the right funding, we can ensure that orphan homes are equipped with qualified staff, which will help guarantee the safety of the children.
The Effect of the 2015 Earthquake
More and more children were being sent to orphan homes consequent to the Gorkha earthquake in 2015. This was because orphan homes promised safety and education, meaning that children who had parents were also being placed in these homes. Meanwhile, the Gorkha earthquake left 320,000 children without a place that they could call home.
As a result, the situation for orphans became increasingly difficult, as available spaces in orphan homes were dwindling. For example, 85% of children in child care homes have at least one living parent, leaving double orphans without a family and a home.
The Effect of Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic saw Nepal have a lockdown, making it even more difficult to obtain food and essentials. People were legally bound to their homes with only a small window each day to purchase the necessities. This was even more difficult for the orphans who did not have a home to stay in, or money to feed themselves.
Many orphans in Nepal rely on begging for food to survive, so when the streets were empty this was almost impossible. Simultaneously, those who had ample access to food and money prior to the pandemic struggled to attain enough for their own families during this time. This meant that neither food nor money was as generously distributed, leaving thousands of orphans malnourished and homeless.
What is the Solution?
Ideally, we would want to facilitate orphans to reunite with extended family members such as grandparents, older siblings, uncles, aunts, or cousins. Growing up in a domestic setting is much more beneficial to a child’s wellbeing. However, we also aim to improve the lifestyle for those wherein living with family is not an option by providing support and ensuring safeguarding standards are implemented by compassionate and trained staff members.
We aim to ensure that orphans have access to shelter, clean water, food, clothing, medical care, and education. However, none of this can be possible without generous donations from the public.
How Can You Help?
You can do your bit to help the struggling orphans of Nepal by donating to the Orphans in Need Nepal Charity Appeal. This will allow us to rescue children from the irreparable damage caused by countless earthquakes. Similarly, it will give us the means to provide orphans with the essentials to survive this dreadful fate.