THE PROBLEM OF ORPHANS is getting serious that the government cannot ignore it any more. The number of waifs and strays on the streets is constantly on the rise.
As you travel around the cities and towns of Papua New Guinea today, you will notice the faces of young children mainly between the ages of 6 and 12 going from street to street collecting empty cans and bottles and, doing small errands for a few toea to buy flour balls for the evening.
If they are lucky, a cup of coffee complements the flour balls. Otherwise cold water suffices.
Amongst the young people, you will see some elderly males and females also collecting empty cans and bottles in determination for survival. Many of them grew up as waifs and strays in the slums.
For these people there is no tomorrow. All they care about is today.
Talk to them about the 2015 Pacific Games or the multibillion kina LNG project coming on line in 2014. To them these are meaningless stories. All they see is bleak despondency. What they care about is their immediate need for the day.
They have no place to call home. The way they dress and the filth and the stench of unwashed bodies clearly tells that they do not belong to a proper home.
They lodge with wantoks in overcrowded squalid cardboard shelters or they hang around night clubs or gambling dens in the slums until dawn. In the morning they are back on the street and the routine continues.
When the going gets tough, what is good and what is bad become obliterated. Pocket picking, shoplifting, bag snatching and mob attacks become necessary. Crime and violence are on the rise.
Girls turn to prostitution in their teens.
HIV and AIDS is the biggest contributor to the orphan problem. As parents die of AIDS and other calamities, the number of orphans increases.
The chairman of the National AIDS Council, Dr Banare Bun, revealed in Kokopo last week that the total number of people infected with HIV stands at 35, 000. This official figure excludes those who have not been tested and recorded.
Most are young people between the ages of 15 and 25 and most are married.
When parents die of AIDS, they leave their very young children to grandparents and wantoks who generally do not take good care of them. The children are abused and maltreated.
As a result, they are forced to the streets to fend for themselves.
Prime minister Peter O’Neill is ‘compassionate’ about the welfare of so-called asylum seekers - foreigners of unknown background most of who are wilfully leaving their country for greener pastures in Australia.
Peter O’Neill is ignoring his own people who are in dire need of government attention.
The problem is getting worse by the year and the government cannot continue to ignore it. These people are Papua New Guineans and their welfare should take precedence over that of foreigners with the aid money from Australia and elsewhere.
If ordinary people can see the problem and go out of their way to address it, then the problem is serious. The Mother of Life Centre in Simbu Province founded by Martin Van der Palen of Netherland, the Faith Based Orphanage (Outreach) in Western Highlands Province run by Aunty Ruth, and the Nangbe Nazarene Care Centre in Jiwaka Province operated by husband and wife Steven and Ruth are good examples.
There are also several other care centres established and operated by ordinary people to care for orphans and their needs.
The three centres mentioned each look after an average of 50 to100 children a year. The figure may be insignificant compared with the total problem, but the important thing is they have seen the issue and gone out of their way to address it.
The availability of resources - land, shelter, food and of course money - is the biggest challenge.
Out of compassion and benevolence, they voluntarily have taken the burden upon themselves to provide shelter, food, clothing and education for the children.
These organisations provide a noble service which is rightfully the responsibility of government. It is a mammoth task that these charities are tackling and the government cannot continue to turn a blind eye.
The government must provide support through the District Services Improvement Program with yearly grant assistance for sustenance and expansion until such time as the government have an orphanage policy in place.
The sooner the better.