War Orphans' Day 2021: History, Significance of the Day
Iraqi orphan children draw in the classroom of an orphanage house during a curfew imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Baghdad, Iraq. (Reuters)
On January 6, War Orphans' Day or World Day of War Orphans is observed every year to spread awareness about the needs of the orphans living in conflict areas. It also serves the purpose of addressing the many crises which are faced by orphans living in such areas.
The definition of orphan, according to UNICEF, is “a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death.”
Orphans living in war zones often lack social and emotional support. In a conflict zone where everybody is surviving on the basic minimum, orphans are often a neglected group. The day was first observed by French organisation SOS Enfants en Detresse.
Reportedly, in 2015, there were around 140 million orphans around the world. Their numbers are higher in countries which are either fighting health issues or are affected by war, which makes most of the orphans in such countries known as war orphans. In 2015, Asia ranked number one with almost 61 million orphans, followed by Africa which then had 52 million orphans.
Most orphans usually live with a surviving relative, often their grandparents. However, there are many who do not have a relative to look after them. In such cases, there are higher chances of the child getting neglected.
It is possible that factors such as malnutrition can weaken their bodies and that makes them prone to infections. Apart from emotional trauma, orphans living in war zones might also become a target of violence and get injuries. Almost half of the civilians affected by wars are children. If an orphan is the eldest one of the siblings, they also have to take the responsibility of their younger siblings.
Individuals who wish to mark this day can spread awareness about the need to keep war orphans safe. They can also contribute towards funds set up for the welfare of orphans living in conflict areas.