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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Russia's Doomed Children

Journal Chretian reports on the crucial role played by foreign NGOs in Russia, currently under assault by the crazed Kremlin, and on the merciless plight of Russia's children:

KHABOROVSK, RUSSIA (ANS) “Imagine the future of a country in which 1 out of every 21 of the inhabitants is currently a child who is an orphan. This is the situation in Russia, where recent Russian media have reported the estimated orphan population at 2 million and the street children at 4 million.” (Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicines, Vol 160, No.5 May 2006)

Five year old Dasha (pictured, left) was found living with her alcoholic parents in Khaborovsk, Far-East Russia taking on a parenting role, cooking and cleaning, as her parents were deeply addicted to alcohol. Her parents sold the family home to move to a desperately run down house. On moving, the family discovered their new home was already occupied by people who beat them and left them on the streets, homeless and penniless.

Instead of being left on the streets, the Samuel Children’s Centre (a centre for children and young people living on the streets or in difficult home situations) supported Dasha and helped her to be accepted into a local shelter for homeless children. Her parents were unable to find a way to escape their terrible addiction and remained on the streets. Her mother died from TB complicated by alcoholism. Young Dasha took up residence in the shelter. With the help of the Centre, Dasha built friendships, completed an education and has been able to attend church.

The Samuel Children’s Centre is one of 10 projects supported by ChildAid to Russia and the Republics. ChildAid is a charity based in United Kingdom. It seeks to transform lives of children in poverty who resort to the street, and support for families who are either forced to “abandon” their children or live in such poverty and despair driven by alcohol and drugs – exposing children to abuse and being sold for prostitution and trafficking. The work is through collaboration with established local Christian partners in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus who seek to improve the quality of life for street children, orphans and children with disabilities, through short and long term aid and development.

It is incredibly difficult to get any concrete statistics on the numbers of children living on the streets or in institutional care in these regions. This is principally down to definition of what actually is a “street child”. If the definition is one where the child has no home, family, institution or the like that they could refer to as their “home” – then they are a “true” street child. In reality there are probably relatively few of these.

If, however, the definition extends to include those who may have a home and relation(s) who could be defined as being responsible for them, but, due to the conditions that they have to endure in terms of poverty and abuse they do not attend school, have little clothes and food and spend their days on the streets – then the reality of Russian street children becomes more complete.

For children with disabilities the position is even worse. They are one of the most marginalized and deprived groups in the former Soviet Union. For generations, they were regarded as ‘mistakes’ and locked up in institutions. This legacy remains and it is still common for children with disabilities to be put into orphanages where they receive little or no stimulation or love.

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