Orphanages in Baghdad

I found this via one of my favorite new blogs, Sunshine Girl On A Rainy Day. She is doing for adult fosterees what many of us adult adoptees are doing – educating others about our experiences. She had this report in her blog. Warning: this is very shocking.

Welcome to an orphanage in Bagdad, where 24 special-needs orphans were found tied to cribs.

Originally, boys and girls were housed together, but then someone separated the boys and sent them to an orphanage with no governmental oversight.

Photo from cbsnews.com

Witness their condition:
– Naked
– Starving
– On the concrete floor
– Lying in their own waste
– In temperatures up to 120 degrees

Was the orphanage poor?
No, it was well-stocked with food. The central office of the facility was well-kept, in stark contrast to the feces-ridden squalor surrounding the children. Brand-new cribs found in storage still had plastic covering their unused mattresses. Clothing was folded neatly, designated to be sold at the black market, rather than worn by children.

But the caretaker of the facility followed his greed, rather than caring for the children with whom he had been entrusted. Staff members cooked only for themselves.

What will be the future for Iraqi orphans?
As a CBS reporter has commented, "How a nation cares for its most vulnerable is one of the most important benchmarks for health in any society."

Last year, the United Nations estimated that there were about 40,000 orphan children in Iraq. That number is steadily rising… The current war has cost many children one or both parents.

In Iraqi culture, orphans are often scorned. Islamic sharia law forbids foreigners from adopting Iraqi children. It also disallows Iraqis from giving adopted children their family name and inheritance.

I would like to know if there is any way around this. Even in the best of the Iraqi orphanages, the children within are starving for love and attention, desperate for human contact. During an NBC interview, one little girl called the cameraman "Daddy."

Without loving intervention, these children might grow up to be future terrorists. Quammara al-Janni, coordinator of orphan programs through the Red Crescent (the Arab Red Cross), reminded reporters that Saddam Hussein was raised as an orphan.

Breakdown in families, breakdown in communication
In April 2007, while working to reunite family members, social workers discovered that 100 Iraqi street children thought to be orphans (86 boys, 33 girls) actually had family members somewhere in Iraq who were willing to take them in. In most cases, the parents had died, and children didn’t know how to contact relatives.

This might be an important first step to take: Trying to reconnect children with extended family members in Iraq…

Engel, Richard. Iraqi orphans face uncertain future. NBC Nightly News, May 26, 2006.
Logan, Lara. Clinging to life in a Bagdad orphanage. CBS News, June 18, 2007.
Potter, Beth. Social workers launch effort to find homes for orphans, others. USA Today, May 31, 2005.
Street orphans of Bagdad: Thousands of homeless kids live on the street in the war zone, without shelter or aid. CBS News, May 8, 2007.
Tarabay, Jamie. Help for Iraqi orphans falls on charities. NPR, April 8, 2007.
Troops discover Iraqi orphanage nightmare. CBS News, June 19, 2007.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

3 thoughts

  1. Sunshine Girl On A Rainy Day is an amazing blog. I have learned so much from reading there. The Baghdad orphanage post is one of the most disturbing posts I have seen there.
    Children’s suffering is too often invisible.

  2. That picture reminds me of what they found when journalists unexpectedly entered the instition at Willowbrook in Staten Island, NY. My aunt was a survivor.

  3. The enormity of this situation, and all the situations like it across the globe, takes my breath away.
    And then when I get my breath back, I feel paralyzed by not knowing how to help. This situation seems like one that groups like Give2Asia could focus grant dollars on, but when I checked their website I saw no activity in Iraq.
    Thanks, Jae Ran, for this information.

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