A grim future awaits foundlings, or abandoned children, in northern Sudan. Left by unknown parents they have no family name, no right to adoption, no papers, and no future. Since they can’t attend school, these children often end up on the streets, ripe fruit for the terrorists, drug dealers, gangs, and child molesters who prowl them. Sadly, lack of official recognition of foundlings keeps the situation out of national headlines. In brief, they are deprived of the most basic rights laid down by heavenly laws and provided by the Convention On The Rights Of The Child.
Khartoum, the most expensive city in the world, remains the center of attraction for displaced people. With its concentration of infrastructure and essential services, such as education and health, Khartoum, is also a main destination for the unwanted children.
Abandoned toddlers need food and a warm bed, but there are only three places in Khartoum that rescue foundlings from the streets. One of them, Mygoma Orphanage, cares for children until they are adopted or sent elsewhere when they reach five years of age. The house was established in 1961 with an initial capacity of 400. By 2008 the number rose to 2000. Of those, nearly 10% die yearly. Because Mygoma has no formal financial support outside of private donations, it relies on voluntary activities to guarantee the flow of services to the children. Thus, the absence of formal financial support puts the whole situation at risk.
What causes devout, hard-working Sudanese to abandon their children?
Economic, social and religious morays are factors driving the abandonment trend. Drought, desertification, famines, unemployment, lack of infrastructure, broken families, 50 years of war, and tribal tensions drive migration to urban centers, where economic conditions cast a shadow on urban dwellers. An official report released recognitionently cited poverty rates between 55 and 90 percent.
The high costs of marriage in Sudan often delay marriage. Although pre-marital sexual relations are forbidden by Islam and leveled to adultery, the "dumping” of children implies that this restriction is not much heeded. Perhaps this explains the bottlenecks and the accumulation of abandoned children in the shelters in Mygoma, Sajjana and Daw Hajouj in Omdurman, west of Khartoum.
In turn, Depending on adoption isn't a solution. Adoption, as defined in western terms, is prohibited by Islam and replaced by 'kafala' fostering for both orphans and foundlings. Yet Islam, encourages Muslims to treat the orphans and foundlings as they would do with their biological children except giving them the rights of a name and heritage.
Unlike orphans, foundlings are generally not adopted by other families. Although adoption, or kafala, promises huge rewards in the afterlife, society, paradoxically, turns a blind eye to foundlings because they are infants of an unmarried couple, known as 'sifah'. Instead it chooses to “preserve lineage and legitimacy, inheritance, solidarity, extended family and commitment to marital status", the elements of prevention given by Islam.
Sudan must both find a way to care for the current generation of foundlings and stop the trend by addressing its root cause. First, Sudanese in the north must soften their stance towards foundlings and try to bring them into their homes. Second, the health service providers should teach sexual awareness and the use of contraceptives in a way that preserves the society. Third, a law should be implemented that secures the safe handing over of foundlings to the police, local authorities, or orphanages. And finally, the use of technology to identify parents is important as well.
Newborns that are dumped and left helpless and defenseless reflect the dark side of society. Looking at abandoned children as people fully entitled to civil rights, reintegration and a normal life is critical to the true virtue of society. Prosperity, progress, and equality of all people should be the top priorities of the state.
I believe that failure to pay the necessary attention to these children robs the present and future with premeditation.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.Voices of Our Future Assignment: Op-eds