AMMONNEWS - Orphans took the podium on Tuesday to draw the public’s attention to what they described as years of oppression, negligence and social stigma, amid the government’s assertions that it is doing “all it can” for them.
At a press conference, a group of orphans who had graduated from care centres affiliated with the Ministry of Social Development said they suffered “injustice on different scales” from government bodies.
“We are obliged to leave the centres after reaching 18. Our fate becomes vague from this moment onwards…,” said Alaa Taibi, their spokesperson and coordinator of their “Know your Rights” campaign.
“We have no one to rely on, and soon we discover that we don’t have the right to work or even live,” he added.
He cited cases in which female orphans had “no other option” but to work at nigh clubs to earn their bread, while others were “forced by the ministry” to marry men of Arab nationalities as a way to “get rid of them”.
“A total of 21 women who were forced to marry Arab men got divorced,” Taibi told The Jordan Times over the phone, claiming that a female orphan had to work at a nightclub due to financial considerations and “ended up contracting AIDS after a relationship with an Arab man”.
He added that there were currently 254 orphans on the streets with their “fate unknown”, claiming that an orphan was admitted to hospital and “died as result of negligence” in 2007.
Taibi pointed out that Al Aman Fund for the Future of Orphans only covers 10 per cent of the actual number of orphaned children in Jordan.
During the press conference, orphans called on the Ministry of Social Development to grant them social security, health insurance, housing and jobs, in addition to expand the services of Al Aman Fund, monitor the marriage of women graduating from the care centres and reallocate a fund for urgent assistance.
Taibi also called on the ministry to implement the National Strategy for Orphans as soon as possible.
Social Development Ministry Deputy Secretary General Abdullah Smeirat said the strategy would be launched this month, which, he noted, includes methods to streamline efforts to improve the lives of orphans.
While estimating the overall number of orphans in Jordan at 72,000, the social development ministry clarified that only 23,000 of them are poor, receiving aid from the National Aid Fund.
“The ministry’s 32 care centres are accommodating only 800 orphans, while having the capacity to accommodate 1,400,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Fayez Ratrout, told The Jordan Times over the phone, adding that there is no need to open new centres.
“Orphans constitute the least number of children accommodated by the ministry’s centres and the vast majority of those residing in them are of unknown identity or victims of broken families, who should be taken care of by their parents or relatives, not the government,” he said.
The spokesperson called on those who are victims of abuse in care centres to contact the monitoring committees, which he noted are independent, impartial and led by volunteers who are not involved in the ministry.
Ratrout said that the ministry had provided 18 housing units worth JD250,000 to orphans and paid more than JD100,000 for their marriages, calling on the public and private sectors and civil society organisation to shoulder their responsibility towards the orphans, since the ministry “cannot take care of them alone”.
He added that the ministry had signed an agreement with Al Aman Fund to allocate JD100,000 for the education of orphans.
According to Taibi, some orphans do not have national numbers, and 60 per cent of them have “special” numbers that start with 2000, which is similar to the number given to people of unknown parents.
Smeirat said the ministry is studying this case and will address the issue soon.
* Jordan Times