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Government fails to embrace orphans.Orphanage receives some 18 children every year

Daily Star,By Maya Abou Nasr .Tuesday, August 31, 2004

 Government fails to embrace orphans
Orphanage receives some 18 children every year

Issuing IDs for abandoned children is difficult process in Lebanon

By Maya Abou Nasr
Daily Star staff
Tuesday, August 31, 2004



BEIRUT: Rudely disrupting nine-year old Fadi's deepest hopes, his best friend at the orphanage, Sara, told him one day that there was no point in trying to find his parents.

"If they wanted you, they wouldn't have given you up," she said with a simple shrug of her shoulders.

Fadi, one of Lebanon's untold number of parentless children, remained defiant: He would take his case to a local television station, hoping that they, at least, could help him find his parents.

Unfortunately, his effort did not get very far.

According to advocates, Fadi and Sara are living testament to one of the civil war's most unpleasant legacies: Thousands of children whose parents were killed, kidnapped, or went missing as a result of 15 years of strife.

Their whimpers have been heard in garbage cans, at churches or mosque doors, in the streets, at hospital doors or near orphanages. Sometimes, their innocence has been violated by their own parents.

"The civil war and the chaos that accompanied it led to cases of rape and unwanted pregnancies," said Doctor Said Mekkawi at Hammoud Hospital in Sidon.

"Some women are raped, others get pregnant with their consent," he said.

Mekkawi said that abandoning a child usually makes these women feel guilty. Indeed, most quickly regret what they did.

According to Mekkawi, these mothers also often monitor their child's status from a distance, following his or her growth."However, none of them came back to take her child," he added.

Mekkawi explained that whenever children ask about their parents, they are told that they are orphans.

"We tell them their parents died during the war," he said. "Children whose parents are alive enjoy the protection these kids do not ... We have a team to take care of them, we provide them with financial assistance and rehabilitation and we protect them. Yet, we cannot replace their parents."

Explaining how the hospital handles cases of abandoned children, Mekkawi said after they receive legal papers issued by the state prosecutor, the baby undergoes examinations at the hospital, after which time the child is sent to the orphanage.

Some of the most serious problems arise, however, when the child must start to attend school.

"It is not easy to issue an ID for him," Mekkawi said, a seemingly minor point that can create bureaucratic and emotional hassles.

Even though the orphanage manages to get the children under their care IDs, Mekkawi pointed out that they face a serious problem since the expression "mothers and fathers unknown," is written on the children's identification papers.

"This expression has a very bad impact on a child's morale," he said. "However, we have succeeded over the last two years to put false names of fathers and mothers on their IDs," Mekkawi added.

The doctor said the government in many instances does not do enough to secure the welfare of orphans.

"The society has no mercy on them, and does not respect them," he said. "Orphans need to be strong, so gossip they might face does not affect them."

Mekkawi criticized the government's failure to embrace these children, saying nongovernmental organizations end up shouldering the burden and taking responsibility for them. "Civil society organizations can embrace unwanted children for a certain period of time. However, instead of addressing the most critical issues by giving them official papers and providing them with job opportunities, the government is complicating their lives.


"Although the orphan might have an amount of money that would allow him to start a new life, it would be hard for him to live outside the orphanage, since he fears the society. Orphans have psychological problems, and the institution cannot do much for them," Mekkawi said, adding that Sidon orphanages have stopped receiving unwanted children, because they are currently overwhelmed.

He drew attention to another difficulty facing the orphanage: "Some people come to the orphanage trying to bargain with us and pay money to get or adopt the baby," he said.

"I know that some people are eager to have a child. However, these are the rules. In Islam, there is no adoption. It is more about a foster-parent relationship," Mekkawi said, referring to the "Kafala" system known in Islam, which allows people to take care of orphans and unwanted children without having to adopt them.

A nun at La Creche Saint Vincent, which has been caring for orphans since 1948, said they  were used to having three to four newborn infants arrive each week 40 years ago. "However, currently, a small number arrive, and most of the time, the child is handicapped."

The nun added that a child arrived earlier this year at the orphanage. "Unfortunately, he had head problems and is dying now! We have sent him to Mere Theresa, who usually takes care of handicapped."

Wafaa al-Baba, the director-general of the Islamic Orphanage Dar al-Aytam al-Islamiya described what he termed the precarious psychological status of unwanted children, saying that whenever they learn of their history, they quickly become bitter and frustrated.

"They develop a certain kind of bitterness toward society," she said.

According to Baba, the mother is not the one to be held responsible. "The father usually escapes his responsibilities and she always falls in the trap."

Baba said the orphanage receives around 15-18 children each year. "Nowadays, children at 6 and 7 are abandoned. We have received a 6-year-old handicapped child holding his belongings in his arms."

"We only accept the child through the office of the state prosecutor. As a social care institution, we issue them birth certificates and identity cards. If parents show up, we would just follow up the issue at the social level and try to make sure that they recognize their filiations, since the state prosecutor is the authority concerned with handling the baby if parents appear."

Baba also stressed that unwanted children can suffer from psychological, health and social problems. "There is nothing more helpless than unwanted children, who desperately struggles to survive. They might be sick, because their mother might have used medicines to abort, which would certainly affect them a lot."

The problem, she said lies in the fact that "we don't have any historical file for them, which causes more problems and complications. This is why the institution helps these children according to the treatment their case requires ... We are here to take care of them and take the place of their family, home and school."


Ecrit par Origines Liban le Lundi 30 Août 2004, 01:00 dans "ACTU 2017/2018" Lu 8433 fois. Version imprimable

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