Across the world an estimated 8 million children live in institutions. Some of those are run by the government, others by NGOs, faith-based organisations or private individuals. Many of these institutions are run with the best of intentions, with a desire to help vulnerable children. However, the fact is that most of these children do not need to live in institutions, more than 80% of children living in institutions have at least one living parent. Giving children a chance to live with their families by making sure community support is available to strengthen vulnerable families is the best way to help them and gives them the best chances both in the short and the long term.
Unfortunately, even the best-run institution is not able to fulfil all of a child’s essential basic needs – which include physical contact, attention, stimulation and an opportunity to form attachments as well as the more commonly recognised practical needs of food and clothes – and in the long run this has serious consequences on the health, physical development as well as the brain development of the child. So institutional care is never the best option for raising a child, children need to grow up in families.
Why then, you may ask, does Orphanage Projects work to improve conditions in existing children’s homes? This is because while it is essential that all childcare moves towards being family-based, this is not something that is going to happen overnight. And while children are still living in institutions, where improving the care system might give them a better chance of survival and a better quality of life, that is what I will strive to achieve, while at the same time advocating a move towards family-based care.
Because of limited means, limited knowledge, limited staff, and sadly sometimes limited interest, levels of care often fall well short of what is needed for children to be able to grow up and enjoy a good quality of life. Amongst the weakest group – infants – the toll is the highest. Lack of proper care quickly leads to high mortality among infants.
While on the other hand, simply more knowledge about and insight into childcare can save lives and make life more enjoyable for both children and carers. All you require to start reducing infant mortality is:
- A genuine interest in improving the care in your institution
- The cooperation of your staff in this endeavour
- Someone to provide you with the required knowledge
Would it surprise you to find out reduction of killers like infant pneumonia is in large part based on just knowledge? Or that the quality of life of children with motor development delays can often already be drastically improved without investing in equipment, with just regular exercises?
Who does not want to see the children in their care live to see their first birthday and beyond? And see their faces beam with pride as they reach their next developmental milestone.
Obviously being a single person, I cannot change the world. But I can change the world for one child. And then another one. And another.