It is estimated there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide (recent UNICEF report.)
The current population of the United States is just a little over 300 million… to give you an idea of the enormity of the numbers… (The current population of Russia is 141 million)
Every day 5,760 more children become orphans
2,102,400 more children become orphans every year in Africa alone
Every 15 seconds, another child in Africa becomes an AIDS orphan
There are an estimated 14 million AIDS orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa (a number higher than the total of every under-eighteen year old in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland combined)
This figure is estimated to reach 18 million orphans in Africa alone by 2010 (only two and a half years away)
8 out of 10 children orphaned by AIDS lives in sub-saharan Africa
Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…
Each year 14, 505, 000 children grow up as orphans and age out of the system by age sixteen
Each day 38,493 orphans age out
Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home
In Russia and the Ukraine, studies have shown that 10% – 15% of these children commit sucide before they reach age eighteen
These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals
Another Russian study reported that of the 15,000 orphans aging out of state-run institutions every year, 10% committed suicide, 5,000 were unemployed, 6,000 were homeless and 3,000 were in prison within three years…
I just wanted to share these statistics as a reminder… A reminder to pray. A reminder to give. A reminder to advocate. The agonizing reality of these numbers breaks my heart and drives me to my knees. The tears of the children and grief of the parents who can not care for their beloved babies weighs so heavily on my heart at times. In the midst of it, I have to believe that God loves every soul – equally and passionately — and grieves for each situation individually more than my finite mind can understand.
In a perfect world, there would be no need for adoption. Biological families would stay together. Children would be raised by loving parents or grandparents and remain in their homeland, surrounded by their culture and connected to their roots tangibly. Obviously, these statistics illustrate that we do not live in a perfect world. Adoption is not the answer for solving the underlying issues of poverty and disease and famine and war. It won’t stop the cycle of more children becoming orphans. It is a life-line thrown out to a precious few… it rescues a small percentage from the going over the falls. The tough question as we see the overwhelming need is how do we bring solutions to the roots of the issues?… how do we make a difference not just in one child’s life through adoption, but in the lives of the thousands left behind… and ultimately how do we stop the cycles that turn innocent children into orphans?
It can be difficult to allow ourselves to really think about these statistics and what they represent. Its easy to respond numbly and see the statistics in terms of thousands or millions… but when we allow ourselves to become personally involved and risk the heart-grief that follows awareness, they become more than mere statistics… they become real children with real hearts that ache for their parents and real bodies that hunger for care. Every single child that makes up the thousands or millions is a precious child, just like my Joanna… just like my Henry. I pray that my own heart will continue to be stirred and my resolve strengthened to speak out for those that have no voice. These precious children need advocates. They need men and women willing to make a difference… willling to stand in the gap and act on their behalf.
May our hearts grow softer and our voices rise louder…
“Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Deliver the weak and needy from the hand of the wicked.” Ps 82:3-4
(Sources: Human Rights Watch: “Abandoned to the State: Cruelty and Neglect in Russian Orphanages” November 1998 ; www.hfgf.org/statistics.pdf ; www.unaids.org/epi/2005 ; UNICEF’s Childhood Under Threat: the State of the World’s Children, 2005 ; www.unicef.org/uniteforchildren/ )