Thursday, March 29, 2007

Liberia: UN Mission in Liberia Press Release 34: Human Rights in Liberia's Orphanages

The following UN press release is quoted in its entirety.

The bold print is mine to emphasize parts of the report related to
  • resistance to first family preservation/reunification
  • possible international adoption abuses.

Source: United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)

Date: 28 Mar 2007
UNMIL launches report on human rights in Liberia's orphanages
UNMIL | Press Release 34

Monrovia, Liberia - UNMIL is pleased to announce the launch of its report “Human Rights in Liberia’s Orphanages”, prepared by the UNMIL Human Rights and Protection Section. Human Rights officers (HROs) surveyed 97 orphanages in 11 counties between July and November 2006. The report highlights key findings of that survey and recommends urgent action to protect separated children who continue to live in unacceptable conditions in orphanages, despite the progress made since 2003 in the establishment of peace and stability in Liberia.

HROs assessed the living conditions in the 97 orphanages against minimum human rights conditions necessary for the enjoyment of child rights, including protection from abuse and neglect. These fundamental human rights are fully binding on Liberia as a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Sadly, living conditions in orphanages, especially those lacking ministerial accreditation, were frequently well below the minimum standards.

Abuses documented in the report include poor hygiene, bedding and clothing, lack of education, lack of access to adequate food and water supply, exploitative child labour, inhuman and degrading treatment and separation from families. Most orphanage proprietors and staff did not have the requisite training in child protection and child care. Furthermore, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW), responsible for the oversight of orphanages, does not have the necessary resources to provide adequate monitoring of conditions and to take action to protect children in these institutions. The delays and challenges encountered by the MOHSW in its programme to close illegal orphanages illustrate the depth of this problem.

The report shows that more than half the children living in the assessed orphanages actually had one or more parents living, or extended family members. Harsh economic conditions facing the community at large have a particularly severe impact on families, with the consequence that many families find themselves tempted to send their children to orphanages. Inducements made to families to surrender their children to orphanages included unfulfilled promises of better education and nutrition, as well as opportunities to migrate to the USA. Orphanage proprietors, a number of whom run their establishments as businesses for profit, stiffly resisted efforts by the MOHSW to reunite these children with their relatives.

In addition to these abuses, the study confirmed that many illegal overseas adoptions were taking place through orphanages, facilitated by weak Government adoption procedures. Such adoptions close any chance of reunification of the child with his or her family and may prevent the child from knowing his or her true identify and cultural background.

The findings of this report are intended to support efforts by the Government of Liberia and civil society to reform and strengthen the national procedures relating to orphanages and adoption. Children are among the most vulnerable in Liberia, and need special attention from both Government and civil society to ensure that they receive the protection they need in order to develop into responsible members of society. The closure of all illegal orphanages, ending of illegal adoptions and the reunification of children with their families are an essential next step towards a better future for all Liberians.

UNMIL PR34 03/28/07

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