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Faith leaders back orphanage phase-out in Kenya

03 May 2024


A child sits outside an orphanage in Kenya, last year

A child sits outside an orphanage in Kenya, last year

CHURCH leaders in Kenya have expressed support for a government plan to phase out orphanages over the next decade, after multiple allegations that children in the homes are exposed to abuse and trafficking.

Hundreds of orphanages are run by churches, but many faith leaders support the phasing out of residential homes.

The Bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Malindi, the Rt Revd Willybard Kitogho Lagho, told the Religion News Service: “There have been a lot of abuses in these homes. Children have been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. There have also been cases of child trafficking.”

Allegations of trafficking have not been substantiated.

The Anglican Bishop of Mombasa, the Rt Revd Alphonse Baya Mwaro, said that some children’s homes were run as businesses. “They do not genuinely support children who are orphaned, or who find themselves without family support,” he said.

Many children are believed to have been sent to homes because the family was poor, or for education, and are then used by orphanages to solicit donations.

A UN children’s agency report in 2017 estimated that 40,000 children lived in 811 registered institutions in Kenya. Data on children in unregistered homes is not available. The National Care Reform Strategy for Children in Kenya encourages family reunification and care of children by extended family networks, and support to keep children in their homes and communities where possible.

Janet Mwema, from the Kenyan National Council for Children’s Services, said that some homes would continue to operate as educational centres, which children could attend while still living in their own home.

In 2022, Kenya passed a Children’s Act that recommended placing children in guardianships and foster care instead of institutional residential settings.

Bishop Johnes Ole Meliyio, of the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church, however, said that, while he supported taking the children back into their communities, closing the homes that provided support to those in need was “another issue”, which should be debated further.

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