About the Orphanage Tragedy
An orphanage in Lebanon that ADFA previously supported is currently under investigation for severe crimes.
ADFA is not suspected of breaching responsibility, having knowledge of, or participating in any irregularities.
Both we and neighbors of the orphanage — including a Lebanese parliamentarian — raised concerns about irregularities over a year ago. However, the Lebanese authorities did not take action until the summer of 2023.
ADFA has had no contact with or involvement in the orphanage since the beginning of 2022.
We actively support the investigation to hold those responsible accountable.
We take great pride in our work and will not rest until the Lebanese authorities uncover the truth about what occurred at the orphanage we supported from 2021 to 2022.
We always prioritize the safety of children.
TRANSLATION OF THIS SWEDISH ARTICLE
Investigation Reveals Abuses at Lebanese Orphanage Linked to Aid Organization
He is an acclaimed investigative journalist and opinion leader and started the aid organization ADFA. ADFA has now been singled out in the reporting on an orphanage in Lebanon, where severe abuses caused the home to be closed - but after ADFA left. "I am saddened and dismayed for the sake of the children. It is a tragedy," says Nuri Kino to Dagen.
Recently, the newspaper Expressen described the abuses at the Safe Haven orphanage in Mansourieh, outside Beirut. Serious allegations surround the home, including neglect of the children, human trafficking, and sexual abuse. Several people are now under arrest, and the orphanage was closed by the authorities last summer. When Dagen reached out to Nuri Kino – an acclaimed investigative journalist and founder of the aid organization ADFA – he expressed his profound sadness and disappointment.
"I have no words for how terrible and tragic it is. It's horrifying. We think about the children," he said.
ADFA is not suspected of any irregularities at the orphanage. However, as the organization had previously contributed to the operation, it is mentioned in the reporting. Expressen described how the children at the Safe Haven shelter, east of Beirut, are said to have suffered neglect, with allegations of a girl being subjected to sexual abuse after being provided with whiskey and beer. Moreover, several infants disappeared without a trace.
Nuri Kino sighed slightly and regretted that many people did not read the full articles, jumping to conclusions from the headlines that his aid organization must have turned a blind eye to the abuses.
"It's not like we started an orphanage and then abandoned it. It was an existing one that we helped for a short time. In fact, we tried to raise the alarm much earlier because we sensed trouble. We withdrew from the collaboration with the local NGO in February 2022, before the suspected abuses took place," he clarified.
ADFA liaised with the Lebanese embassy in Sweden and Lebanese authorities on the ground in Beirut to ensure transparency in their collaboration with the local organization running the orphanage. In the registered letters sent to the management of the Lebanese organization, ADFA expressed its loss of confidence in their cooperation partner.
Nine months after ADFA's departure, the first alarm was raised with social services in Lebanon.
Assistance in Lebanon
Nuri Kino also pointed out factual errors in Expressen's investigative report. "They claim, among other things, that we paid for a caesarean section for a woman who gave birth to a child later taken to the orphanage. That's not true."
However, he was mostly distressed that the children, whom ADFA intended to support, had suffered harm. He provided his version of events since ADFA (A Demand for Action) decided to support the orphanage in Lebanon. He recounted how, following the catastrophic explosion in the port that devastated many Lebanese lives, the organization got in touch with the orphanage in 2021.
"We came to Lebanon and conducted spot interventions for those in need during a period of turmoil in the country. When we arrived at the orphanage, we found children with shaved heads due to lice infestation. There were bedbugs, the apartment was dirty and cramped, they had no fans, and there wasn't even toilet paper."
ADFA decided to provide financial assistance to the orphanage, and they also inspected the local organization that managed it. ADFA later found a new location for the orphanage, a house with a garden. They purchased toys, arranged insurance, and ensured access to schooling. In total, the organization contributed half a million Swedish crowns (approximately 48,000 USD) to the project.
"It might not sound like much in Sweden, but in Lebanon, it's a significant sum," he emphasized.
ADFA also insisted on thorough documentation, with each child having an individual report following Swedish standards for transparency and follow-up between the two organizations. Regrettably, achieving this proved challenging, leading ADFA to engage a lawyer. When even the authorities stated that ADFA couldn't access the documents due to confidentiality laws, as the Lebanese organization held the license to operate the orphanage, the lawyer advised them to terminate cooperation.
During this period, ADFA attempted to raise concerns about the situation, said Nuri Kino. "Even for us, this became unpleasant. When we wanted to withdraw, we received threats and pressure. They even sent us pictures of the children to emotionally manipulate us. We hesitated to leave because we were concerned about the children."
Finally, in February 2022, ADFA terminated all cooperation with the local NGO. After the termination, ADFA had "no idea at all" about what transpired at the orphanage. Nonetheless, everything that ADFA had funded, including schooling, health insurance for the children, rent for the new premises, and all equipment purchases, was left in the hands of the Lebanese organization.
It wasn't until a year and a half later that reports of abuse and neglect reached ADFA, initially through leaks from the local police. Later, Nuri Kino received a call from an investigator involved in the preliminary investigation against the orphanage.
"He asked questions about whether we had handed over cash, but we hadn't. We paid for everything on the spot and have receipts."
Contributing to the Investigation
According to Nuri Kino, this was the only contact Lebanese authorities had with ADFA. "I find it strange that they haven't interviewed us or communicated with us more."
When asked what lessons ADFA had learned from this experience, he replied, "We discussed this extensively yesterday. What do we do in the future? This may sound cynical: but you either help or you don't. It's never possible to make help 100% risk-free. We're proud that we did everything 'by the book,' meticulously documenting everything. Would I do it all over again? If I encountered an orphanage with deplorable conditions, would I get involved? Absolutely, without hesitation."
On the other hand, Nuri Kino admitted that it was a mistake not to disclose what transpired on the organization's website. "We were advised by a crisis manager to remove information about the orphanage from our platforms. I questioned whether we should share what had happened and that we had withdrawn support, but she advised against it. That's why we remained silent. However, I think it was a mistake. Nevertheless, we did precisely the right thing in terms of not obstructing the investigation, as our lawyer warned that any disclosure could be interpreted as interference, necessitating our silence."
Regarding future steps, Nuri Kino stated, "We are awaiting the investigation report now, as we haven't been able to participate in it yet. It's an ongoing process. We will continue with our humanitarian work worldwide, including providing financial and organizational support to a health clinic in Lebanon. We are volunteers and do not draw salaries."
"Above all, we hope the children at the orphanage are now safe. We will continue to make targeted efforts, stepping in where we are needed, whether in earthquake-affected areas, orphanages in need of financial support, or in conflict zones like Ukraine. That means we will continue to do our part and leave."