NAIROBI, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- The number of children in Kenya in residential care institutions, like charitable children foundations, is estimated to be at 45,000, said the UN Children's Fund, or UNICEF, Tuesday.
Eri Mathers Suzuki, the chief of Child Protection at the UNICEF Kenya office, told a forum in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, that these children are separated from their parents due to poverty, parental neglect, violence at home, or abandonment.
"The situation is especially dire for children with severe disabilities and those living on the streets or entangled in conflict with the law," Suzuki said during the national stakeholders' forum on sustainable childcare reform in Kenya.
The two-day event brought together more than 150 delegates comprising government officials, children's rights activists and international donors to deliberate on how to enhance the well-being and safety of children across Kenya.
In 2022, the Kenyan government launched the national care reform strategy that seeks to ensure that children are primarily cared for by their biological parents.
Suzuki observed that any care model reliant on children growing up in institutions, no matter how well-intentioned, raises significant concerns. She revealed that studies indicate that up to 90 percent of children in residential institutions are not orphans but have at least one living parent.
The UNICEF official noted since the inception of care reform efforts in Kenya, there have been notable success stories where children have been successfully reunited with their families.
"Many children are now living with their biological families or kinship caregivers such as grandparents, uncles and aunties," Suzuki said.
The UNICEF and Kenya's government goal is that by 2032, the majority of Kenyan children and young people will experience the happiness of growing up in safe and nurturing family-based care.
Abdinoor Mohamed, chief executive officer of the state-owned National Council for Children's Services, said that children who are unable to live with their parents should be placed in alternative families or community-based care settings instead of residential care institutions.