Global Widowhood Crisis

Widowhood Hotspots: Unseen Tragedies and Unheard Voices

In the vast tapestry of human suffering, the plight of widows often remains hidden, their voices unheard. Yet, their stories are woven into the fabric of societies worldwide, particularly in regions where the phenomena of “island of widows” and “cities of widows” have emerged. These are widowhood hotspots where the number of widows is disproportionately high due to underlying causes such as disease, conflict, and dangerous work conditions.

The Invisible Islands and Cities

The term “island of widows” has been applied to locations in Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, and other regions in South Asia, where a significant number of women have lost their husbands to unknown chronic kidney disease (CKDu). This disease, first diagnosed among sugarcane workers in Chichigalapa, Nicaragua, has more recently spread to a coastal town in a village in South Asia. In a village of less than 3,000 people, at least 126 women have become widows due to CKDu ailments, which have stricken farmers, coconut grove workers, and fishermen.[1]

Similarly, another city in South Asia has been labeled “the city of widows.” An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 widows live in the area, almost one-fourth or one-third of the city’s population of 63,000.[2] The Sunderbans, a cluster of islands in South Asia, contain several villages that are home to “Tiger Widows,” women whose spouses have been killed by tigers.[3]

The Underlying Causes

The causes of these widowhood hotspots are complex and multifaceted. In many cases, they are linked to occupational hazards. For instance, the CKDu that has created “islands of widows” in Nicaragua and South Asia is believed to be associated with agricultural work, particularly among sugarcane workers. Similarly, the “Tiger Widows” of the Sunderbans are often the wives of fishermen or honey collectors who venture into the forest for their livelihood, risking fatal encounters with tigers.

Conflict is another significant factor. In conflict-torn areas like Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, sustained warfare has left some areas with a widowhood rate as high as 40 percent. In Afghanistan, the United Nations Fund for Women has reported as many as 2 million war widows, well above 20 percent of the corresponding female population.[4]

In the face of such suffering, it is essential to remember Christ’s heart for the marginalized and oppressed. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes God’s concern for widows, urging His followers to care for them. At GFA World, we strive to embody this call to action, reaching out to widows in need and providing practical support to help them overcome the challenges they face.

The plight of widows worldwide is a call to action for all of us. We can no longer ignore the suffering of these women, hidden in the shadows of society. By supporting GFA World’s Widows and Abandoned Children Fund, you can help provide practical assistance to widows in need, offering them hope and a chance for a better future.

In conclusion, the phenomena of “island of widows” and “cities of widows” are stark reminders of the unseen tragedies and unheard voices in our world. By shedding light on these issues and taking action, we can help bring about change and offer hope to those who need it most.

Learn more about the global widowhood crisis

[1] “Balliputuga, India – The Other Island of Widows – La Isla Network.” La Isla Network, September 28, 2017.
[2] Contributors to Wikimedia projects. “Vrindavan.” Wikipedia, October 22, 2023.
[3] The Plaid Zebra. “A Look Inside the Village That Is Home to India’s Resilient Tiger Widows.” The Plaid Zebra, October 18, 2016.
[4] Harma, Risto F. “World Widows Report.” The Loomba Foundation. 2015.