Liberia: Orphans Engaging Into Prostitution – Orphan Concern Raises Alarms; Blames Govt for Lack of Support

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Mr. Amos Sawboh, Executive Director of Orphan Concern (standing) along with some adult orphans at an empowerment summit

MONROVIA – A local non-governmental organization (NGO) advocating, empowering and providing support to orphanages in Liberia has alarmed over the “deplorable and appalling” living conditions of orphans since the inception of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government of President George Manneh Weah.

According to the Executive Director of Orphan Concern-Liberia, Mr. Amos Sawboh, some orphans residing at various orphanages in Monrovia and other parts of the country are compelled to engage into prostitution and other unwholesome acts due to severe hardship, including hunger that has engulfed most orphanages operating in the country.

Orphan Concern-Liberia is presently partnering with several orphanages including: Sister Iye Orphanage Home, Monrovia Training Academy Orphanage, Comfort Toe Orphanage and the Great Commission Orphanage, among others.

Mr. Sawboh disclosed that the lack of basic necessities, including food, has forced children residing at various orphanages to either eat once a day, or go to bed on empty stomach.

He made these comments in an interview with FrontPage Africa via telephone on Tuesday, October 20.

He attributed the present constraints at various orphanages to the lack of adequate support from government.

 “The current living status of orphans across Liberia is really, really poor and deplorable. The children living at the orphanages are living at the mercy of the communities. Whatever the communities can provide is what they will eat. Almost all of the orphanages are only having one meal a day, instead of a square meal”.

Mr. Sawboh continued: “As I speak to you, there are orphanages that have started complaining already that when there is no food for the children, they are even more vulnerable and expose to prostitution, crimes and lot of things. If they don’t have the support in the homes, their vulnerability is very high and I can’t tell you that these things are not happening”.

Lack of subsidies

He pointed out that since the inception of the CDC-led administration, no orphanage has received subsidy from government to cater to orphans.

Mr. Swaboh disclosed that though the amount of US$12,000 was budgeted every year for 64 accredited orphanages, not a dime has been disbursed to these orphanages, through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.

He noted that the alleged failure of government to release monies allocated to these orphanages continue to expose orphans to unwholesome practices, and hinder the smooth operations of these institutions.   

Mr. Sawboh recalled that monies that were previously budgeted and released to orphanages during the regime of ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf aided authorities of those homes to alleviate some of the difficulties, including the provision of food and the payment of medical bills of orphans, among others.

 “No orphanage has received subsidies from the government for the past three years. Orphanages allotment is placed under the Ministry of Gender and the ministry receives the money from the Ministry of Finance. But the government has said that, there is no money”.

Stimulus package

Mr. Sawboh observed that the Covid-19 Stimulus Package distribution initiated by government has not targeted orphanages in its totality.

He added that the entire process which was intended to provide vulnerable groups and individuals with food, did not reach orphanages in the leeward parts of the country.

According to him, only less than 40% of orphanages, particularly in Montserrado County benefited from the stimulus package distribution.

“The orphanages have not been able to benefit from the stimulus package. When we are talking about vulnerable population should benefit from government stimulus package, I think the orphanages should be considered the most”.

“Most of the orphanage homes now are going through difficult times during this Covid-19 period. Most of them do not even have the food to eat. It’s becoming difficult for them day by day and they are not even receiving government support”.

Mr. Sawboh continued: “Most of the orphanage homes that received the stimulus package are basically in Montserrado County. But all of the other counties have not been able to receive their contribution of the stimulus package”

Plea

Mr. Sawboh, however, urged government and other philanthropic organizations operating in Liberia to come to the aid of orphans.

According to him, children staying at various orphanages will become “zogos” if the necessary support and care are not provided them.

In Liberia, disadvantaged youths are referred to as “zogos”. They usually beg for handouts, savage dumpsites for used materials to sell, load passengers in vehicles or snatch away valuable items from people.

“With the ongoing global pandemic, it is about time that the Government of Liberia, international partners and other people put premium on the lives of children living in the various orphanages, and the general orphans’ welfare population. If we cannot look after them or provide food for them, we are sending them out to become the next badge of zogos or crime perpetrators”.

“President Weah-before becoming President will on many times go to the orphanages and provide them food and support. Why is it now he’s President and those that are responsible cannot ensure that it is also done. I think it is about time that we as a nation and people come together to provide for children that are living in orphanages”.

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