According to data from the Kellem Zone Social Affairs Office there are 3,831 orphans in Kellem. Out of these, 715 are in a precarious position and need urgent help from all concerned bodies. There are also children, who although they have not lost their parent/s, they are either abandoned or they have to leave home due to poverty or family problems. These are not included in the data of the Social Affairs' Office. Technically an orphan is any child or teenager up to the age of eighteen who has lost one or both parents. The situation of orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) is delicate because as children they easily fall prey to exploitation and abuse. The increasing number of orphans is caused by a number of interlinked factors: HIV/AIDS plays a big role in the increase of OVC numbers as death and morbidity of breadwinners in the family end up in lack of resources and abject poverty.
Increased poverty and inflation have left many households unable to sustain themselves and their children. The extended family which used to act as a safety net for such children has been weakened by poverty and new social values that emphasize material gains for individuals as opposed to the old traditional values of blood relationships. Inability to obtain sufficient food forces many children to leave home in search of better opportunities. These, usually, end up in towns where they are either taken in as domestic servants, usually, for no pay and without an opportunity to go to school. Girls, in particular, fall prey to sexual abuse and might end up becoming sex workers for luck of any other opportunity.
Walal has included the plight of orphans in its programs towards development. During the last five years, food assistance and supply of educational materials have been given to more than 290 orphans, tutorial classes to more than 100 orphans and income generating sources to 120 orphans. These 120 orphans have been give two pregnant ewes each. After about three years most of the orphans own an average of 5 sheep having sold about the same number to cover their clothing and school material costs. Some have decided to sell their sheep to buy cows or oxen.
The local breed of sheep is prolific, usually laying twin lambs. At local conditions of feed, a lamb can be ready for the market in six months. Ewes have proved to be a viable enterprise for orphans and apart from a small income they give them a psychological boost and a sense of independence as well as something to look forward to. Walal covers the cost of veterinary medicine till the orphans can afford it. A disadvantage of this program is that orphans who have no relatives at all, can not participate because the sheep have to be cared for by someone while the orphan is at school. For those orphans who are too young to take care of themselves, a close relative or guardian is given skill training and tools or seed capital to sustain the family. Currently the program for assistance to orphans has been discontinued due to financial constraints.