16 September 2009

Cameroon: Orphanages With Hidden Faces

Even though orphanages are expected to bring solace to children in distress, many people use orphanages as a short course to make money.

The joy on the face of Mrs Atangana last Friday was obvious. She danced joy for having found her lost and found daughter. Her baby was given up to an orphanage shortly after she was delivered so that the orphanage could help her take care of her baby. She explained that she did not have enough means to take care of the baby; that is why she sought help from the orphanage. However from time to time she visited to her baby at the orphanage. She last visited her baby in March last and her greatest surprise was that her baby was no where to be found. The authorities of the orphanage claimed to be innocent about the disappearance of the two-year old baby girl. The intervention of Ministry of Social Affairs enabled her to retrieve her baby. This is the situation of many children who pass through orphanages these days. Actually orphanages are expected to bring solace to orphans and children in distress. However this is not the case with many orphanages today. What has raised eyebrows is that many people consider orphanages today as a short course to make money. Normally, orphanages are supposed to prepare children for adoption but instead fake orphanages are involved in children trafficking and other mischievous practices.

In most, cases the children are given out for adoption without informing the relatives or they just disappear. Apart from that, creating an orphanage has become a means of obtaining money and other material support from the government and international donors. The proceeds are rather used to enrich themselves and their families rather than the orphans.

In order to revamp the sector, the Ministry of Social Affairs has drawn up a statistical diary of all the structures taking care of children in distress in the country. The structures were classified in to three categories A, B and C. Those in category A are among the orphanages that are legal and in conformity with the law. Those in category B are those which are ready to improve on their situation and those in category C are those that are likely to be closed. Sources at the Ministry of Social Affairs say that the major problem is where to keep the orphans when the structures must have been closed.

Last year, the Ministry of Social Affairs sent a team to all the regions of the country to reinforce the capacities of those structures and remind them of the need to respect the existing rules and regulations. However, the Ministry of Social Affairs is working hard to improve the situation of orphans in the country.

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