The need for relief and support to African AIDS orphans is immense. Worldwide, it is estimated that more than 16 million children are orphans because of AIDS, of which 14.8 million live in Sub-Sahara Africa. “The staggering number of African children already orphaned due to disease is only the beginning of a crisis of gargantuan proportions… and the worst is yet to come”, reported UNICEF.*
Orphans are far more likely than other children to miss school, turn to begging or prostitution, fall sick, fail to be inoculated, pass on diseases and die young.
Orphans are also often disruptive. Crowds of them congregate at traffic lights in Nairobi, Lusaka and Johannesburg, begging, sniffing glue and pilfering. Many are traumatized, having watched their parents slowly waste away and die. AIDS and the assumption that they carry the virus too shun many because of the stigma surrounding death. Such children easily slip into delinquency.
Impact on Families
In Africa, extended families do a heroic job of caring for orphans and preventing delinquency. Typically a grandmother takes on the children after her daughter dies. But as today’s grandparents die of old age and the middle generation dies of AIDS, there are fewer people to care for future orphans. Many children are left to look after even younger brothers and sisters. Child headed families are becoming common.
* Statistics from Children on the Brink, a joint report by the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
AIDS in Africa **
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 27 million of the world’s 40 million HIV-infected people.
- Last year, the region accounted for 77 percent of AIDS deaths worldwide and more than 60 percent of new infections.
- Though life-extending antiretroviral (ARV) drugs have been available to treat AIDS in the developed world since 1996, they are largely unavailable in Africa.
- Only 1 percent of the estimated 4 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who need AIDS drugs are getting them, according to the World Health Organization.