Serial Orphans in Zambia

The names of the children in Abandoned Children’s Fund stories are changed to protect the children but the stories related are true stories. This story is about baby Jeanne who when our project partner first laid eyes on her was seven months old and weighed a mere 12 pounds.  One of our caregivers observed that even at her age she had the saddest expression she had ever seen on a baby.


Jeanne was born to a couple who loved her dearly, but the happiness did not last long.  When Jeanne was less than one month old, her father died. Grieving for her husband, Jeanne’s mother clung to her baby, carrying her on her back all day and sleeping with her at night.  But Jeanne’s tragedy was just beginning. One day her mother came down with malaria.  Twenty-four hours later she was dead.

In Zambia when a nursing mother is buried, often (within a few days) the infant child is buried right behind her as a nursing infant cannot survive without milk. A household trying to survive on one dollar each day cannot afford even one small can of infant formula. A child may lose his life because of a simple infection that could have been cured with $2 worth of antibiotics.

In Jeanne’s case, according to Zambia’s extended family custom  Jeanne’s aunt took her into her family.  Unfortunately, with other children in the home, Jeanne did not get as much attention as she had from her mother, but her aunt was at least able to feed her and sometimes she sang to her.

Then an unexpected tragedy struck again. One morning her aunt had a bad headache.  Before noon she had collapsed on the kitchen floor.  By evening she had died.

Another relative, a widow, had compassion on Jeanne and took her home.  But this woman, struggling as she did to earn a living working as a maid, found it necessary during the day for Jeanne to be left with neighbors – first one, then another.  This exasperation was just another straw on the camel’s load as some mornings it seemed impossible to find anyone who would watch little the baby Jeanne.


One day, the widow left the child with a woman who was unknowingly an alcoholic.  When Jeanne cried, her baby bottle was filled with beer.  After that “meal” Jeanne didn’t cry for the rest of the day. When the widow returned from work she found Jeanne drunk. Horrified, she knew she couldn’t continue to care for Jeanne and keep her job, which was her lifeline to survival.

If a friend had not told her about our Children’s Care Home, it is likely Jeanne would have been abandoned by the caring widow. Though this may seem heartless, sometimes the burden of compassion just becomes to much to bear and even the most generous people give up. Baby Jeanne had become a serial orphan, having lost three mothers in less than 7 months.

Fortunately, Jeanne’s story does not end on this sad note.  After recovering at our partner’s Crisis Nursery, and was eventually adopted by a wonderful Zambian family. Jeanne matured into a healthy, delightful little girl and is now growing up as God intended, in a family.  Please accept our invitation to provide a safety net of provision for an innocent, abandoned child like Jeanne.


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