Understanding Orphan Statistics

Mercy Projects would like to thank the Christian Alliance for Orphans, of which we are a member, for their in-depth analysis of the global orphan crisis reprinted here. We affirm the historic Christian understanding—conveyed in Scripture and affirmed by social science —that God intended the family as the essential environment for children. We believe the ideal outcome for every orphan is to know the love and nurture of a permanent family.

Current Global Estimates

Although reflecting only broad projections, the estimated number of orphans globally currently reported by the US Government and UNICEF, include:

17.8 million children worldwide have lost both parents (“double orphan”)

153 million children worldwide have lost either one or both parents.

Missing From the Estimates

One of the greatest weaknesses in these global orphan estimates is that they include only orphans who are currently living in homes. They do not count the estimated 8+ million children living in institutions. Nor do current estimates include the vast number of children who are living on the streets, exploited for labor, victims of trafficking, or participating in armed groups. Thus, global orphan statistics significantly underestimate the number of orphans worldwide and fail to account for many children who are among the most vulnerable and most in need of a family.