The Plight of Orphans

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

Big beautiful brown eyes, curly brown hair that tumbles to the tips of her shoulders and the innocence of only 1 and a half years of life best describe the little girl that was recently found abandoned outside a beauty parlor in Kuwait. Her name is unknown even to herself, however authorities have loving named her Alaa, which means ‘nobility’.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that millions of children are abandoned on a global scale each year. The approximate figure is conservatively set at 60 million, however experts agree that the true number is much higher than that. According to HRW, countries with the most heinous record of social care for abandoned and neglected children include Russia, Brazil, China and Romania. Abandoned children in these countries often do not obtain proper education, nutrition or even the basics needed for life. They are often isolated and do not receive the vital human contact, like a gentle hug or kiss, needed to fully develop into social beings. Quite often, children institutionalized will die in the same institutions in which they are raised. Many countries have a social stigma attached to abandoned children and the public is often resistant to adopting discarded kids although some infants do make their way into private homes because there is a higher demand for newborns than there is for older children.

The plight of abandoned children is a worldwide epidemic and exists in all countries around the globe for a wide array of reasons whether they are economic or social. Each country has its own set of criteria for dealing with the social epidemic of unwanted children. Many countries fail in their attempt to provide abandon kids with the quality of life that children with homes have. However, a handful of Middle Eastern countries are making great strides in providing abandoned children with the best life possible. Leading the path in the development of extensive social care facilities within their countries are Kuwait and Dubai.

In Kuwait, children who are abandoned are sent by the Ministry of Social Affairs to social care facilities where they are placed for 30 days while the Ministry attempts to locate their parents. In the event that the parents are not found, the abandoned child will become a ward of the State which entitles them to receive the Kuwaiti nationality which is full of benefits like free health care, monetary gifts for life, free housing and more. The Kuwaiti nationality is a blessing given to abandoned children who would otherwise live a substandard life unable to otherwise arise above their life circumstances.

Dubai has a similar model that is followed for the social care of abandoned children within the Kingdom. It is known only as “Ward 16” and is located at Al Wasl hospital. All children abandoned in Dubai first receive immediate pediatric care and then are admitted to the ward. Authorities will search for the parents for a limited amount of time. And if no one comes forward then abandoned children will be naturalized as citizens of the UAE.

Both Kuwait and Dubai do allow the nationals of their countries to adopt abandoned children. In Islam, rescuing an orphaned child is a guaranteed way to receive salvation on the Day of Judgment and be near to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) who said:

“The best house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are well treated. The worst house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are ill-treated. I and the guardian of the orphan will be in the Garden like that,” indicating his two fingers. (Abu Huraira)

However, expatriates in both Gulf States are forbidden from adopting abandoned children irrespective of their race, socio-economic standing or religion. Once an abandoned child is made a Ward of the State it can only be adopted by parents with the same nationality. As a result, many children will never be adopted but will be forced to grow up in an institutional environment. And no matter how hi-tech the institution maybe there is nothing on Earth that can take the place of a loving embrace from a mother or father.

Many expatriates have tried to get special permission to adopt abandoned children in the countries in which they currently reside; however the attempt has been futile to say the least. Manal Ahmed, a childless wife in Kuwait, recently was moved by pictures in the local press about a 3 year old boy and his day-old sister who were abandoned near a running track in Khalidiya. “I would adopt both children as my husband has a very good paying job,” laments Manal, “and I went to the Ministry of Social Affairs. I was rejected before they even looked at my husband’s salary certificate simply because I am not a Kuwaiti.”

The weakest members of any society are children. To even ponder that any human, who is capable of even the tiniest degree of love, could turn their back on such a vulnerable creature is reprehensible. However, the plight of abandoned children is not one that is likely to go away by itself and its up to governments to find better ways to cope with unwanted kids and bring the parents who abandoned them to justice.


5 replies
  1. Anne
    Anne says:

    I cannot believe that a country would rather see orphaned children grow up in a hospital when many well-intentioned expats would be enormously grateful to be able to foster/adopt a child of any nationality. This is very sad to read that these children in Ward 16 may never find a loving home because of clearly antiquated and inhumane laws! This is an outrage in my opinion and more people must speak out to save these children from a life without parents! Nothing could be worse!

  2. Sudha
    Sudha says:

    I feel the same. I have one son but he needs a sister or a brother and i would love to adopt a child and give a home to them. I am an indian but setteled here. What i want tto do is to give life to a child and in return she or he is there to give us joy. Nationality does not matter. why cant the uae rules be different.

  3. Julie
    Julie says:

    I find this totally disturbing to say the least. Our job as adults is to teach children not to be racist and to accept people for what they are. Does it really matter what colour or nationality you are in order to be able to express your love for a child? The UAE and other Gulf states are overrun by expats who are willing to give any colour, gender or nationality a stable and loving home. i think in turn the Government should see the same. Times are changing and so are attitudes, hopefully for the sake of the future generation and those desperate children in WARD 16 AL WASL HOSPITAL, this will be on the list of change too.

  4. john
    john says:

    This system of abandoned children in hospitals is wrong. Once I remember a child whose legs were tied to the bed in a hospital. They are not criminals and proper care needs to be given to children. When different nurses gets time they attend and no care is given to them. The rulers should see that the children abandoned are given care like in other countries whether they are orphans or not.