The Egyptian government is encouraging families to take care of abandoned children and raise them as their own, invoking the age-old Muslim doctrine of Kafala.
This follows the introduction of a series of legal amendments that have eased many of the restrictions of Kafala. This initiative, entitled “A family for every child”, is aimed at reducing the number of children living in the country’s 400 orphanages.
Hosny Youssef is a member of the Egyptian High Commission for Alternative Families.
“We have 12,500 abandoned children who are now living with 12,000 families. Some families choose to obtain the custody of more than one child. We have another 10,000 children who still live in care homes. We hope that we can provide a family to each one of those children and get rid of all care institutions in the long term”, he said.
In almost all other Muslim countries, including the Middle East, orphans are mostly taken in informally by their extended family, without any legal provisions.
But Islam has introduced the legal concept of Kafala, whereby a faithful can obtain full custody of a child.
However, the child cannot take on the surname of the guardian and has no inheritance rights.
Prior to 2018, orphaned children in Egypt could only be entrusted to guardians if they were over two years of age. This threshold has now been reduced to three months.