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Ethiopia counts one of the largest populations of orphans in the world: 13 per cent of children throughout the country are missing one or both parents. This represents an estimated 4.6 million children – 800,000 of whom were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Almost a million children in Ethiopia have lost one or both parents to AIDS, according to government figures released by UNICEF. "Many believe that estimates may be too low, and the reality is that Ethiopia is facing an AIDS orphans crisis," the UN children's agency representative Ibrahim Jabr told a news conference. He added that by 2014, there would be an estimated 2.1 million AIDS orphans in the country.
Many street children don’t have access to basic rights such as proper care, education, psychological support and supervision. Often, orphans and other vulnerable children are forced to work to earn an income. They are exposed to various forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation. In Addis Ababa more than 30 per cent of girls aged 10-14 are not living with their parents. Twenty per cent of these 30 per cent have run away from child marriages.
Unicef asserts that very few government services help orphans. The primary coping strategy for communities has therefore been the extended family. Increasingly, however, the capacity of the extended family to support the growing numbers of orphans is declining.
“As more and more parents die, the capacity of the extended family to take care of orphans becomes smaller and smaller,” says Björn Ljungqvist, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia. “In all countries where you have a big HIV/AIDS epidemic, at first you don’t see any orphans at all, as they are absorbed by the traditional systems. And then all of a sudden you seem to reach some type of breaking point and you start finding these children in the streets, you start finding them working in difficult conditions, you start finding even child-headed households.” (Unicef, 2008).
The need for adoption is great, yet it is not the only need. Although we are proponents of international adoption (as evidenced by our two adopted children from Ethiopia), we also recognize the need to address the reason for the need of adoption. The primary goal of Ethiopia Guest Home is to make a difference in the lives of those in Ethiopia through empowering change. Additionally, as 100% of the profits from Ethiopia Guest Home go to support local NGOs, ministries and organizations that provide hope to orphaned and at risk youth and families, simply staying with us helps to make a dent in the pandemic. Perhaps you are wondering what you can do?
In our first year, we hosted 10 volunteer teams with over 130 individuals from six different organizations. As we now have our third Guest Home (all within walking distance), we hope to double that amount by stirring the church and those in first-world countries throughout the globe to come and be Jesus to orphaned children and at-risk women in Ethiopia.
We started a drop-in center for children and single mothers with Peter Abera of Compassion Family International. We have had the privilege of helping over 140 children to receive a sponsor to help provide basic needs.
We are helping to further the mission of groups like World Orphans, Compassion International, Visiting Orphans, International Hope and Heritage, Crossing Lines, The Forsaken Children, Ethio American Family Services, From HIV to Home and others whom already have a passion and a heart to reach out.