Millions of children around the world have limited access to food, shelter or education, but some Belarusian children face additional hardships. Life is difficult for many families in the former Soviet republic, and due to a complex set of social and environmental factors, including effects from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, many children live in orphanages. The situation is dire for many Belarusian children, and immediate action must be taken to prevent further pain and suffering.
Belarus was formally recognized as an independent nation in 1991 following the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Although their newfound independence was hailed as a triumph by the Belarusian people, the nation is still struggling to gain its footing economically. Unemployment in Belarus is high, and substance abuse and domestic violence remain serious societal problems. As a result, children often grow up in dysfunctional and sometimes dangerous homes, or are separated from unfit parents by the state. These children almost invariably end up living in one of the country's many orphanages.
Since 1995, the number of social orphans — children removed from unsuitable homes — has increased dramatically. In fact, by the end of 2009, almost 30,000 children in Belarus were living in orphanages, an overwhelming majority of whom were social orphans. Although their basic needs for shelter and food are usually met, these children face tremendous obstacles in receiving a suitable education and the love, care and support they need to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults.
ChildFund has worked in Belarus since 1993 to help communities deal with the most serious causes of child neglect, including substance and domestic abuse, poverty and social misconceptions about orphaned and disabled children. The USAID-funded Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children program being implemented by ChildFund provides institutionalized children a chance to live with foster families instead of orphanages.
As a result of ChildFund's work in Belarus, three of five piloted communities stopped placing children in orphanages, and the overall rate of child institutionalization has declined by 25 percent. Although this is great news, we still need your help. One way is to donate $84 for special vitamins that help disabled orphans in Belarus from our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog.