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In every other part of the world the number of orphans is decreasing, in Africa the numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. Here are some disturbing facts:
- Over 30 percent of the children who die in the world are African, even though they make up only 10% of the world’s children.
- 19,000 African children die every single day
- Over 1 million children are orphaned every year
- There are more than 90,000 new orphans every month … more than 2,900 every single day
The numbers are staggering and the misery is unimaginable. Most of these children have been orphaned due to the AIDS pandemic, which generates more orphans than any other disease the world has ever known.
Traditional means of caring for orphans have been in place throughout sub-Saharan Africa for generations, but social and economic strains are drastically unravelling such practices. The demand for care and support is overwhelming.
Families and communities are struggling to provide for themselves, never mind taking care of orphans. Children are often raised by their grandparents, members of their extended family, or left on their own in households headed by other children.
While the physical needs of orphans, such as nutrition and health care, are the most urgent needs, the emotional impact on children who have lost a parent is also a serious concern. Having a parent become sick and die is a major trauma for any child, and affects them for the rest of their lives.
Many children die from malnutrition, lack of medical attention, or neglect. There are simply not enough resources to provide them with even the most meager necessities to survive.
Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy
for HIV/AIDS in Africa, spoke about the orphan problem:
“We were taken to a village where the orphan population was described as out of control. As a vivid example of that, we entered a home and encountered the following: to the immediate left of the door sat the 84-year-old patriarch,entirely blind. Inside the hut sat his two wives, visibly frail, one 76, and the other 78. Between them they had given birth to nine children; eight were now dead and the ninth, alas, was clearly dying. On the floor of the hut, jammed together with barely room to move or breathe, were 32 orphaned children rangingin age from two to sixteen.”
“It is now commonplace that Grandmothers are the caregivers for orphans. The Grandmothers are impoverished, their days are numbered, and the decimation of families is so complete that there’s often no one left in the generation coming up behind. We’re all struggling to find a viable response, and there are, of course, some superb projects and initiatives in all countries, but we can’t seem to take them to scale.”
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, stated:
“The silence that surrounds children affected by HIV/AIDS and the inaction that results is morally reprehensible and unacceptable. If this situation is not addressed, and not addressed now with increased urgency, millions of children will continue to die, and tens of millions more will be further marginalized, stigmatized, malnourished, uneducated, and psychologically damaged.”
These orphans must not only be fed and provided with health-care; they must also be educated and trained so that they are able to grow and become self-sufficient. This will save the children and benefit their communities and the world.
Lift the Children is passionate about this work and we welcome your support.
All donations are tax deductible