Sudanese officials and UNICEF team up to find families for abandoned children

Sudanese officials and UNICEF team up to find families for abandoned children

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Sudanese authorities have launched a campaign to prevent people from abandoning infants and to find temporary families to avoid placing the children in institutions.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Sudanese authorities have launched a campaign to prevent people from abandoning infants and to find temporary families to avoid placing the children in institutions.

A joint assessment carried out in 2003 by the Government and UNICEF found that an estimated 100 newborns were being abandoned on the streets of the capital Khartoum every month. “Half of these were dying on the streets, the others left with no alternative but institutional care,” the agency stated in a press release issued yesterday.

These “alarming statistics” led the Ministry of Social Affairs for Khartoum State and UNICEF to develop a pilot programme to move away from institutional care towards the placement of children with alternative families.

Evidence shows that children’s development is improved when placed within alternative families, including dramatic changes in motor, language and social development, the agency noted.

Based on the Islamic system of kaffala, which requires communities and families to support the welfare of vulnerable children, some 500 emergency alternative families that are willing to provide temporary care for abandoned babies have been identified.

This period of temporary care will allow social workers to trace the children’s own families and attempt reunification. Permanent alternative families have also been identified to provide longer-term care for children who cannot be reunited with their parents.

The new initiative also focuses on prevention by collaborating with midwives, community leaders and families to reduce the risk of abandonment of children whose families face difficulties in caring for them.

The launch of the initiative coincides with the planned closure of Khartoum’s largest orphanage, Maygoma, which in 2004 received nearly 700 new referrals despite concerns over the quality of care being provided to abandoned children. In the last three years, as the pilot family care programme was developed and non-governmental organizations assisted in the management of the orphanage, more than 2,500 children were moved to the family care system.