The ongoing devastation caused by the AIDS virus means that up to 15 million children around the world have been left orphaned. More alarmingly, around 12 million of these children live in Africa. Here, we consider the particular problems facing this generation as they are forced to form new family units and continue their lives without the support or love of their biological parents.
A child living with a parent who suffers from AIDS can become neglected long before the parent passes away. The additional emotional trauma of losing the parent means that many children develop high levels of psychological distress. Anger, depression and anxiety plague these children’s lives. Children who are orphaned are frequently housed away from siblings, contributing to further emotional problems.
When a child loses a parent due to the AIDS virus they become stigmatised by the society around them. The shame and rejection caused by this stigma contributes to further emotional problems. The discrimination means the child will often be denied basic education and even healthcare, as many assume they will also be suffering from HIV and any illnesses would be untreatable.
When an African child loses one parent, they often suffer the plight of having to care for the other parent who is also dying from AIDS. Household chores become the child’s responsibilities. When both parents pass away the child will typically be housed with a relative. These are large households with little income and children may be forced to work or beg just to keep themselves alive.
African orphans are likely to be educationally deprived. Financial issues limit access to education, particularly in larger households. Family budgets do not include school fees and uniforms. When an orphan is rehoused, they often have their schooling interrupted or perform poorly in school as a result of their situation. The lack of a parent figure means they also miss out on life skills, which may have been passed on from their mother or father. The future for these orphans becomes bleak as they face ongoing social problems, financial issues and poor health.
The pressure from the long epidemic of AIDS has put massive strain on African communities. The large number of orphans continues to grow and the demand for care and support is simply overwhelming. Families not only suffer emotional loss but the decline into poverty due to high medical costs and funerals expenses.
To prevent the African orphan crisis from deepening, new infections from the HIV virus must be prevented. Health care needs to become more accessible and a greater level of support needs to be available for those already orphaned.
Many organisations are working hard to make the necessary changes but need constant support. Plan UK gives you the opportunity to make a difference to an orphan’s life. By sponsoring an orphan for just 50 pence a day you, will help provide essential vaccinations and build schools.
Visit www.plan-uk.org for more information on child sponsorship in Africa.