As we mark World Children’s Day we continue to experience the unparalleled losses and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. One which looms most prominently in my mind is “pandemic orphans.” These are children and young people that have lost at least one of their parents or caregivers to COVID.
A peer-reviewed report published a few months ago in The Lancet estimates that from 1 March 2020 to 30 April 2021, over one million children experienced the death of primary caregivers, including at least one parent or custodial grandparent. Of course, as the number of COVID related deaths continues to rise, millions of more children are at risk of being orphaned within the next year.
At The Martin James Foundation, we firmly believe that orphanages are never the answer, especially not in response to this “hidden pandemic”. Over 80 years of research shows the physical and psychological damage that orphanages can inflict. Children without parents need more than informal caregivers, but instead reliable kinship care, foster care, or adoption.
MJF is wholeheartedly committed to supporting infants in need of safe, secure, and loving homes. But we don’t do this alone. We collaborate with like-minded organisations to advocate for family-based care solutions that make orphanages and similar institutions unnecessary.
We also empower global partners to strengthen their child protection systems by building on their capacity to design, pilot, deliver and advocate for high quality-foster care. We are currently working with partners in Greece, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Thailand and Turkey.
We must be constantly advocating for a local, national and global commitment to preventing children from separation from their families.
It’s an honour to join forces with so many incredible people and organisations for this noble cause. As we see more impacts of COVID on children’s mental and physical health conditions and access to education and healthcare, we must remain focused, committed, collaborative and relentless in our efforts to protect children.
As a father, uncle, brother, colleague, and leader, I invite you to join me on World Children’s Day and every day to promote and celebrate young people’s rights. They should be able to thrive with the support of a safe and loving family.
The time is now for us to join together and reimagine a better world for children.
I am curious, how will you be improving child welfare on November 20th?