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Protecting Vulnerable Afghan Orphan Children from Abuse

The population of Orphans in Afghanistan

The current population of Afghanistan as of July 2022 is 40.7M, based on United Nations data. As per Data Reportal , approximately 48% of them are from 0-17 years old, and 1.6M of them are orphan children. Data shows that the country’s population is increasing at the rate 2.3%+ every year. Out of the total population of Afghanistan, 48.7% are female, and 51.3% are male, as per the data from the start of 2022, 26.6% of the population lives in urban areas while 73.4% lives in rural areas.

smiling afghan girl looking to the camera
Photo Credit: UNICEF

Afghan Children – Victims of War

Decades of war and insecurity in Afghanistan have displaced millions of Afghans inside and outside of the country, and apart from ruins, poverty and unemployment have left around 1.6M orphan children who are facing serious economic issues. More than half of the population in Afghanistan lives under the poverty level. The ongoing war, poor economy, and displacement have exposed the orphans to the extreme situation of violence and abuse. As the conflicts increase and the war continues, we will witness an increase in the number of orphans and child casualties. One of the main reasons for early child marriage is the insecurity and conflicts in the country. UNICEF has identified Afghanistan as the worst place to be born in the world.

afghan children victims of war
Photo Credit: Hasht-e-Sobh

“Due to conflicts, the lives of many children like me are affected. I don’t want war anymore,” said Mohammad Nasim to Pajhwok, a 14-year-old orphan resident of Qala-e-Naw. “If there was no war, my father would have been alive today, he would not have died of a mine explosion ten years ago and I would not have to work, but rather I would have continued my education,” he added while reminding the difficult days of his life. He sells pepper and dish masala in a handcart in a corner of Qala-e-Naw city, the provincial capital of Badghis. “It is difficult to study and also to work. I want to become a successful engineer and do not want to work on the road forever,” he said while requesting the government to support him and other orphans in the country who are now the breadwinners of their families and to provide them with education for their prosperous future. 

Nasim is not the only child who has lost his father there are almost 1.6M orphans in the country who are even having worst financial and social situations than him. They are not only providing food to their families but also renting the house where they live, clothing for their brothers and sisters, and much more. “Our house is rented and very old. We have nothing in the house. If my father was alive we would not have been begging”, said Humaira to Pajhwok, another 11-year-old girl orphan whose father worked in the former government’s security forces and was killed in a battle. She is begging with her mother and three sisters in Qala-e-Naw city of Badghis province. Due to extreme poverty, she is deprived of going to school and preferred to beg with her mother to continue staying alive. 

afghan orphan brother and sister are polishing shoes on the street
Photo Credit: Tolo News
afghan mother and child are begging in Kabul winter on the street
Photo Credit: The Times

As a result, the consequences which follow their obligation to work are indeed tragic: they will be deprived of education, and they will be exposed to victims of sexual abuse and street harassment, police violence, and disease linked to pollution.

Violence Against Children in Afghanistan

Children in Afghanistan, especially those working on the streets are exposed to extreme violence. They mainly become the victims of sexual abuse and street harassment. Approximately 1500+ cases are recorded each year, while the majority of the victims don’t reveal the bad experiences they went through. Violence against children is a worldwide problem, especially in countries where there is armed conflict and extreme poverty like Afghanistan. According to a survey conducted by Humanitarian Response in 2015 in three locations, Kabul, Jalalabad, and Torkham (Border with Pakistan), their most significant findings included:

  • 78% of children subjected to violence (low participation rate of girls)
  • Most violence occurs within the home. Girls report higher rate of violence at home and boys in the workplace/community.
  • Boys had slightly higher rates of the report on sexual violence than girls
  • Religious and community leaders were children’s least preferred source of support.
  • Children with a higher level of education reported lower rates of violence and vice versa.

“One day a man asked me to buy him a pack of chewing gum. I purchased and handed it over to him in his house, then he forced me inside his home and raped me”, said Ahmad to The Guardian, a fourteen-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted many times since he was five years old.

Moreover, the child mortality rate is the highest in Afghanistan, 1 out of 5 children dies before the age of 5 years old. Malnutrition is a major issue in the country, and is mostly due to extreme poverty. Mohammad Khan, a villager from northern Afghanistan, told Reuters that he sold his 40-day-old baby for 70,000 AFN ($780) to save his other children from dying from hunger. 

afghan children with their mothers are queuing in the hospital
Photo Credit: Yahoo News

Such incidents are increasing in number across the country as poverty has reached its peak. There remains no other choice for them but to sacrifice one of their nearest and dearest for the sake of other family members’ lives. Many such heartbreaking stories exist all over Afghanistan that are unimaginable for the other people of the world. On the other hand, orphans who are taken care of by other family members, villagers, or adoptive parents are treated as little slaves and are distinguished from their children, and the orphans’ lives and educations are provided secondary attention.

What does Islam say about orphans?

Islam has emphasized and set great importance on the treatment of orphans. Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) was an orphan too. He lost his father before he was born. It is the right of every human being to be protected, and taken care of physically, psychologically, emotionally, and financially.

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said, “Whoever caresses the head of an orphan (in affection), solely for the sake of Allah, a good deed will be written to his account for every hair over which he passed his hand. – narrated by Abu Hurairah

Most of the orphans don’t have any source of income and/or a guardian to take care of them. This is where the Muslim community, charity organizations, and government have to step in and support the orphans and their family members.

orphan afghan girl in an orphanage in kabul
Photo Credit: Aljazeera

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said, “I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise like this,” putting his index and middle fingers together. – Narrated by Sahl bin Sa’d (Bukhari)

Allah The Almighty, lists the orphans after close relatives in many places in the Holy Quran. This means that we should not ignore the orphans and understand their importance while supporting ourselves, our close relatives, and the needy.

In Surah Baqarah, Ayat 83, Allah says;

وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ لاَ تَعْبُدُونَ إِلاَّ اللّهَ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَاناً وَذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَقُولُواْ لِلنَّاسِ حُسْناً وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً مِّنكُمْ وَأَنتُم مِّعْرِضُونَ 

And ˹remember˺ when We took a covenant from the children of Israel ˹stating˺, “Worship none but Allah; be kind to parents, relatives, orphans and the needy; speak kindly to people; establish prayer; and pay alms-tax.” But you ˹Israelites˺ turned away—except for a few of you—and were indifferent.

Similarly, in Surah Baqarah, verse 215, Allah says;

يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلْ مَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ فَلِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا تَفْعَلُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ

Allah The Almighty, lists the orphans after close relatives in many places in the Holy Quran. This means that we should not ignore the orphans and understand their importance while supporting ourselves, our close relatives, and the needy.

In Surah Baqarah, Ayat 83, Allah says;

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) 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.” [Bukhari]

Caring for an orphan is a way of softening your heart. The Prophet said, “If you want to soften your heart, then feed the poor and pat the head of the orphan.” (Musnad Ahmad). Whether you welcome an orphan in your own home or sponsor a child in an orphanage, you will gain the reward of keeping the child in a loving and caring environment. As per the Quran and Sunnah, we must bless and purify our wealth by giving charity. This does not decrease but rather increases the wealth in many ways. So supporting orphans is one of the ways to give charity.

afghan orphan children in class room in kabul city

Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 177;

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَالْمَلآئِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَى حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّآئِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُواْ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاء والضَّرَّاء وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

Piety does not lie in turning your face to East or West: Piety lies in believing in God, the Last Day and the angels, the Scriptures and the prophets, and disbursing your wealth out of love for God among your kin and the orphans, the wayfarers and mendicants, freeing the slaves, observing your devotional obligations, and in paying the zakat and fulfilling a pledge you have given, and being patient in hardship, adversity, and times of peril. These are the men who affirm the truth, and they are those who follow the straight path.

On the other hand, supporting orphans is a form of Sadaqah Jariyah or continuous charity whose deeds will be received even after death. 

 

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “When a person dies, his deeds come to an end except for three: sadaqah jariyah (a continuous charity), or knowledge from which benefit is gained, or a righteous child who prays for him.” [Muslim]

 

So, if you sponsor an orphan, you will be helping them to get a good education, and a place to live in security and tranquility, saving them from dangerous situations such as sexual abuse, street harassment, violence, and exploitation. You will receive the reward every time a child learns, make supplication to Allah and serve humanity.

Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah, Aayat 220;

فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةِ وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْيَتَامَى قُلْ إِصْلاَحٌ لَّهُمْ خَيْرٌ وَإِنْ تُخَالِطُوهُمْ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَاللّهُ يَعْلَمُ الْمُفْسِدَ مِنَ الْمُصْلِحِ وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لأعْنَتَكُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ 

And they ask you, O Prophet, about looking after orphans. Say: Setting their affairs right is best for you and them. Thus if you interrelate with them, then they are to be treated as your brothers in faith. And God knows best the sower of corruption from the sower of righteousness. And had God so willed, He could have overburdened you with restrictions. Indeed, God is overpowering, all-wise.” (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:220).

Orphanages in Afghanistan

According to the officials, 68 public orphanages were operating in Afghanistan. After the Taliban took over the country, 9 out of 68 orphanages remained open, and the rest closed and halted their operations due to lack of aid. Out of 9K+ orphan children, almost 5K+ were sent away from the orphanages. Most of the orphans are sent to their relatives as the financial issues increases, leaving thousands of orphans without shelter. Those orphans that are still living in the orphanages are either having no relatives or their relatives are not capable to look after them.

orphan afghan girls in an orphanage in Kabul city
Photo Credit: Tolo News

After the US blocked over $9B of Afghanistan’s Central Bank reserves and suspension of humanitarian aid by international donors when the Taliban gained power in August 2021, has put orphanages in extreme crisis, particularly food shortages, clothes, fuel, medical, and stationery supplies. The country faces numerous hardships including economic challenges ever since.

According to figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program, 22.8 million people, or more than half of the country’s population, will face severe food shortages if the current crisis persists.

“We cannot meet the daily needs of children such as food, clothes, and medical supplies in a short period of time as we did in the past,” the manager of Kabul’s Teyiye Mesken orphanage, Mujib Rahman Hotak, said the TRT World. “We need everything from food to winter materials such as coal and clothes to keep them warm, and stationery for their education,” he added.

afghan children in an orphanage in Kabul city
Photo Credit: Tolo News

It is reported that the personnel in orphanages were having trouble getting their wages from the time of the previous government, and that problem was aggravated with the Taliban’s takeover. But most of the personnel see their job as a religious obligation and continued their work. Many orphan children are still applying to the orphanages, but due to insufficient resources and operations of orphanages, they are not enrolled.

After seizing power, Taliban officials visited Afghanistan’s orphanages and promised to provide support, but a concrete solution has not yet been offered. Orphanages do not receive any amount of financial assistance from the Taliban government, and international aid was cut when the Taliban seized power, reported TRT World.

Orphanage administrations are calling for the continuation of national and international aid to Afghanistan’s orphanages so they can keep their doors open. However, despite its necessity, aid is not sufficient according to authorities. There is also a need for the Taliban administration to step in and develop a concrete and continuous institutional policy with international aid.

Hayat Orphanage in Afghanistan

Hayat Orphanage has been proudly serving the orphans across the country and also in its orphanage in the Laghman province of Afghanistan since 2013. Through your generosity, support and donations, our programs are continuously improving the lives of the orphans and protecting them from any kind of abuse or harassment.

Child protection is one of our main working areas, but we also seriously pay attention to their education, health, ethics, sport, capacity-building, and safe environment. Currently, around 100 orphans are cared in the orphanage in the Laghman province and many others are financially supported at their homes across the country. We are making sure that the orphans incur good education facilities, study well with a peaceful mind, and build their future, while we take care of their family’s financial issues. We aim to make them stand on their own feet with dignity and honor via an orphan sponsorship program. We are helping in creating a better future for them so that they sustain themselves and their families in the long term, get access to better jobs, and avoid street work including begging and abstaining from putting themselves in dangerous situations such as sexual abuse and street harassment. These all would not have been possible without your donations. So, please donate and let’s protect vulnerable afghan orphan children from abuse.

“Whoever embraces an orphan of two Muslim parents by feeding him and giving him drink until he is independent of him; Paradise will certainly be necessary for him. Whoever emancipates a Muslim man, he will be his freedom from the Hellfire; he will be rewarded for every limb of his in equal measure” [Musnad Aḥmad 19855].