Today is International Children's Day. Although it doesn't have a particularly high profile in Britain, it is celebrated widely across Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South America and markes the anniversary of the world conference or the Well-being of Children held in Geneva in 1925.
This day is also used to mark the 'birthdays' of children growing up in residential institutions and orphanages in Central in Eastern Europe. Many of these children don't know their actual birthdays and don't get to celebrate them if they do.
Lumos, the children’s charity founded by JK Rowling, recently visited such institutions in Moldova in order to highlight the plight of the one million children estimated to be living in such circumstances.
JK Rowling commented, "The most shocking thing is that early emotional neglect leads to a measureable lack of brain development in humans. It can never be fully repaired, although removal from an institution and proper rehabilitation in a loving environment can work wonders."
"I'm comforted by the fact we are slowly helping governments transform education, health and social care systems for children for the better, but I never lose a sense of urgency when I think of the bleakness of some of these children’s lives.”
The charity's chief executive Georgette Mulheir said: “Almost completely off the radar, one million children across Central and Eastern are suffering various forms of abuse and deprivation, often in spite of the good intentions of those who initially established the institutions."
Many of the young people confined to institutions have been wrongly labelled disabled and are therefore unable, under limited government legislation, to be considered for fostering with families.
Lumos’ campaign, Light a Birthday Candle for Lumos, which launches today aims to raise awareness of the plight of children in institutions, and is encouraging people to raise money by lighting a birthday candle online for institutionalised children.
Money raised will help Lumos move more children out of institutions into loving family environments. For more information visit www.lightabirthdaycandle.org.uk