In the common use, an orphan does not have any surviving parent to care for him or her. However, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) and other groups label any child that has lost one parent as an orphan. In this approach, a maternal orphan is a child whose mother has died, paternal orphan is one whose father has died and a double orphan is one who lost both parents. In the United States, one legal definition used is a minor bereft through “death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents.”
Whatever the cause of a child becoming an orphan, the numbers are staggering worldwide. In Afghanistan there are an estimated 1.5 million orphans due to years of war. In China it is estimated 573,000 children are in orphanages and 650,000 orphans in Russia. In Myanmar, the former country of Burma the figure is a staggering 1.7 million.