According to UNICEF, there are 153 million orphans worldwide[i]. UNICEF defines orphans as children who have lost one or two parents to death or desertion. It also reports that the vast majority of “single” or “double” orphans are over 5 years old and usually live with a surviving parent or family member[ii].
It’s difficult to quantify how many adopted Ethiopian children are double or single orphans since our documents usually lack information about our first families. Most adult adoptees have told me that their documents either don’t mention their parents’ names or state that their parents are deceased. However, some adoptees have memories of their first families. Upon reaching adulthood, many adoptees have travelled back to Ethiopia and found their first mothers or first fathers alive. Others have reunited with their siblings, aunts and uncles. Limited financial resources, unemployment, death, illness, cultural perceptions about unwed or single mothers are some of the reasons why so many of us became “orphans”.