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  • Nohely Diaz

The children left behind in the Philippines


It is estimated that nearly 2 million children in the Philippines are either neglected or abandoned by their households as a result of social, environmental, and economic factors. These high numbers of abandoned children can be attributed to violent conflict as a result of the country’s stance on drugs, mothers forced to find domestic work overseas, high levels of poverty and teen pregnancy, and particular natural disasters, all culminating in children being taken in by orphanages.


Poverty is one of the underlying factors for children becoming orphans. In efforts to provide further income for their households, parents are often left to seek work further away from home. Many mothers seek employment overseas in order to escape high unemployment rates in their own country, and while they may find work, it is often noted to be heavy and for little pay. According to CNN, over 2.2 million Filipinos worked overseas, most of whom are women. One major destination for work is Hong Kong, where almost 400,000 workers have gone for work, with an average pay of $600 a month in comparison to the $213 pay of the Philippines.


CNN covered the stories of several mothers who made the heavy decision of seeking work overseas. Several of them mentioned how they were doing so to help their children obtain a higher education, in an overarching effort to help them escape the cycle of poverty. Catalina Magno, one of the mothers featured in the story, mentioned that her only goal in going abroad had been to earn money so that her children could go to school.


The reach of poverty is felt within another demographic of parents. An additional contributor to high orphan populations is high teen pregnancy rates in the Philippines. According to NPR, teen pregnancy is rising in the Philippines, with over 1.2 million Filipina girls from the age of 10 to 19 having had a baby. Many of these young mothers are from low-income households and have not had adequate sex education, if any at all. Another aspect as to why teen pregnancy rates are high is the social/cultural rejection of birth control and other contraceptives. The rejection of contraceptives has brought up concerns of family planning and the ability for young girls to determine how many young children they can take care of.



The impact of family structures being weakened and affected by poverty have affected young mothers and their children, as well as the children of families where the use and selling of drugs led to fatal conflict. The Philippines has made headlines over the “drug war” killings that have taken place in recent years. According to Human Rights Watch, over 5,000 individuals were killed during police anti-drug operations. Human Rights Watch has reported that thousands of children have been impacted by such killings -- physically, economically, and emotionally. Many of the children of those killed have been left without a major source of income, causing many to leave school.


In addition, a mere affiliation with a family member engaged in the drug business has created another level of ostracization within communities, resulting in some children being forced to live on the streets. Often enough, children drop out of school to support their families. After his father Renato was killed, Robert and his younger siblings started living on the streets. To support his family, he became a garbage collector. Even with having a job, it wasn’t enough to get him and his family off the streets.

Natural disasters in the Philippines have led to a further increase in children no longer having a household to live in. Typhoon Haiyan is an example of the devastating impact a natural disaster can have when it concerns children. This disaster took place in November 2013 and according to UNICEF, 6,000 people were killed, with nearly 14 million children being affected by it. The impact of natural disasters as a result, have been a contributor to children in orphans in recent years.


Homelessness brings forth other forms of danger. Sexual exploitation has been one of the biggest areas of concern. This is usually through the prostitution of children. According to statistics that were released in 1996 by the Philippine Resource Network, 60,000 of the 1.5 million children who were living on the street had been exploited through prostitution. Given the current onslaught of COVID-19 related social effects, families often find themselves homeless, living in informal settlements. These living conditions increase the risk of children getting other diseases, such as typhoid fever and diarrhea, which is due to the lack of essential resources like clean water.


In order to meet the needs of children who are classified as abandoned or neglected in the Philippines, there are a number of orphanages that have been established. However, several issues have been brought up with regards to the efficacy of a few orphanages in the Philippines when it comes to children being adopted out. Many of the children end up aging out of the system, with older children usually being adopted out by Americans. One aspect of the laws that let children age out sooner is that in the Philippines, children aged 15 and over cannot be adopted. Orphanages had a slight increase in orphans as a result of natural disasters over the past decade as well.

In order to support children in the Philippines, it is critical that proper forms of assistance are provided for children. Many of the orphanages that have been working to support the children do not have enough room or are unable to ensure children stay in school. Save the Children’s work in the Philippines has focused on addressing such disparities by providing health education and early childhood programs. One can donate to their cause and sponsor a child through the link provided. Another area that would be beneficial to orphaned children in the Philippines would be additional housing, which would provide environments that deliver clean and safe water sources, protection from outdoor elements, and further stability to continue their education, meeting many of the needs these children have.


Works Cited

  1. Help Children in the Philippines. Save the Children. (n.d.). https://www.savethechildren.org/us/where-we-work/philippines#:~:text=Since%201981%2C%20Save%20the%20Children,children%20can%20learn%20and%20grow.

  2. Philippines Typhoon Haiyan. UNICEF USA. (n.d.). https://www.unicefusa.org/mission/emergencies/hurricanes/2013-philippines-typhoon-haiyan.

  3. Branigan, T. (2013, November 20). Typhoon Haiyan: children in disaster zone are vulnerable, warns Unicef. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/20/typhoon-haiyan-children-vulnerable-unicef.

  4. Philippines: Lasting Harm to Children from 'Drug War'. Human Rights Watch. (2020, October 28). https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/05/27/philippines-lasting-harm-children-drug-war#.

  5. Kaiman, J., & de Leon, S. (n.d.). Philippines has 1.8M abandoned kids. Philippines has 1.8M abandoned kids - North Shore. https://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/tribune/article_popover.aspx?guid=82083541-bf95-4f72-8a88-4527eef9fc53.

  6. Yeung, J., & Cruz Bacani, X. (2020). The Philippines' migrant workers, and the children left behind. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/11/asia/hong-kong-filipino-helpers-dst/.

  7. “Save the Children Philippines Joins Global Call for Safe, Adequate Shelter for Children, Families on World Habitat Day - Philippines.” ReliefWeb, October 5, 2020. https://reliefweb.int/report/philippines/save-children-philippines-joins-global-call-safe-adequate-shelter-children.

  8. Cepeda, Cody. “Aging out: The Fate of Abandoned Filipino Children Who Don't Get Adopted.” INQUIRER.net, December 25, 2019. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1205472/aging-out-the-fate-of-abandoned-filipino-children-who-dont-get-adopted.

  9. Almendral, Aurora. “PHOTOS: Why The Philippines Has So Many Teen Moms.” NPR. NPR, August 21, 2020. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/08/21/787921856/photos-the-hidden-lives-of-teen-moms.

  10. “Philippines: Reading, WRiting, ARithmetic and Child Rights.” Philippines | Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and Child Rights, n.d. https://web.archive.org/web/20080202085240/http://ipsnews.net/alert/countries/phils1.html.


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