Children are the worst victims of conflicts, natural or man-made disasters and other social upheavals as they are often rendered abandoned and homeless. Securing a future for children without families is only possible when the government extends support to NGOs dealing in such issues, says SOS Children's Villages International head Siddhartha Kaul.
"There has been a lack of political will in bringing change towards the status of children and women which at times becomes a little frustrating. No NGO can provide the best care solely. Help from any government is very much necessary," Kaul told IANS in an interview.
Kaul was initially elected as the president in June 2012 and re-elected for a second four-year term in June 2016. His association with the child care NGO started around 40 years ago when he was appointed Director of the SOS village in Madras, now Chennai.
"We want to partner with anyone who wants to partner us. The approach has to be long-term and for that, support from the central authorities is very important; else it will be difficult to fix the issues. The solutions have to come from the states and not from private houses," he further added.
According to SOS, migration is the major reason for leaving children homeless. In the recent past, there has been mass migration across Europe and, closer home, the crisis caused by some 600,000 Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh to escape persecution in their native Myanmar.
Talking about offering sustainable solutions to such situations, Kaul said SOS alone could not do so.
"The problems are big; the world is far worse than imagined. We can only present a model of how to take care of a situation. We need to create such conditions in their home countries so that no one has to leave their land," he noted.
Currently, SOS Children's Villages International comprises 118 national SOS Children's Villages associations globally. Its General Assembly, which convenes every four years, is its highest decision-making body.
Talking about major challenges that SOS faces, Kaul stated that improper utilisation of resources has always remained a major area of concern.
"There are countries where there are resources, but they remain unused, whereas there are countries where there are no resources and the demand is huge; the challenge comes in there, like in African countries," he noted.
According to the UN, globally, there are more than 220 million children living without parental care and need alternative care like foster homes and orphanages, among others.
In India, SOS villages are home to around 17,000 children across 22 states. Apart from financial instability where parents often leave their children at shelter homes, Kaul also pointed that in India, children born out of wedlock is another major reason for children having to live in shelter homes.
"It is very much a social stigma in India. Unmarried woman being pregnant is not accepted in our society. In such cases, the child is left to be brought up in a shelter home. The society's approach towards women and children needs to be changed," Kaul contended.
Can a shelter home offer the same atmosphere as that of a proper home?
"An SOS village is the best alternative to a family. We are focused on giving the young souls the value of love and respect and make sure they are brought up in a good environment. Each and every child under our care is being provided with education and employment, leading to sustainable development."
Asked about his future plans globally, Kaul said reaching out to poorer countries is the prime focus.
"Our target is to continuously grow even if it is minimal. We have plans to invest in poor countries. We want to give sufficient amount of assistance so that the children don't have to seek refuge in other countries," he explained.
(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)