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 â€˜nobilityâ€™.
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 â€œWard 16â€ 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:
â€œThe 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,â€ 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. â€œI would adopt both children as my husband has a very good paying job,â€ laments Manal, â€œand I went to the Ministry of Social Affairs. I was rejected before they even looked at my husbandâ€™s salary certificate simply because I am not a Kuwaiti.â€
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.