that measure the plight of children and orphans affected by the AIDS epidemic
• AIDS has orphaned
at least 10.4 million children currently under 15 (that is, they have
lost their mother or both parents to the epidemic). The total number
of children orphaned by the epidemic since it began—13.2 million—is
forecast to more than double by 2010.
deaths caused some 2.3 million children to become orphans (at the rate
of 1 every 14 seconds) in 2000. UNICEF estimates that up to a third
of those children were less than five years old.
• Before the
onset of AIDS, about 2% of all children in developing countries were
orphans. By 1999, 10% and more were orphans in some African countries.
• At the end
of 1999, the estimated number of orphans living in some of the worst
affected countries were: 211,000 in Burkina Faso, 900,000 in Ethiopia,
53,000 in Namibia, 970,000 in Nigeria, 371,000 in South Africa, 447,000
in Zambia, and 623,000 in Zimbabwe.
• Although the
orphan crisis is located mainly in Africa at the moment, countries in
other regions (especially the Caribbean and Asia) are expected to experience
large increases in the number of children orphaned by AIDS.
Caught in a vicious
half of all those with HIV become infected before they celebrate their
25th birthday. Many of them die from AIDS before they turn 35, leaving
behind a generation of children to be raised by grandparents or siblings.
• The epidemic
has forced vast numbers of children into precarious circumstances, exposing
them to exploitation and abuse, and putting them at high risk of also
becoming infected with HIV.
• Research shows
that orphans living with extended families or in foster care are prone
to discrimination, which includes limited access to health, education
and social services.
• Children in
households with an HIV-positive member suffer the trauma of caring for
ill family members. Seeing their parents or caregivers become ill and
die can lead to psychosocial stress, which is aggravated by the stigma
so often associated with HIV/AIDS.
• Many children
are struggling to survive on their own in child-headed households. Others
have been forced to fend for themselves on the streets. Consequently,
there is an increasing number of unprotected, poorly socialized and
under-educated young people.
• Studies in
20 countries—most of them in Africa—show that children whose parents
have died are less likely to attend school than those who have not lost
Making a difference
• HIV/AIDS will
continue to affect the lives of several generations of children. The
impact will mark their communities for decades as the numbers of impoverished
children rise, their insecurity worsens, education and work opportunities
decline, nurturing and support systems erode, and mortality rises. Wide-scale,
long-term efforts are needed to cope with these harsh new realities.
organizations and communities are faced with the acute need to devise
ways of assisting AIDS-affected children, equal to the enormous scale
of the crisis. Too often, such efforts lag behind, fragmented and short-sighted.
care for the majority of orphans and other vulnerable children is neither
a developmentally ideal nor a financially appropriate option. It is
better to devote resources towards strengthening the abilities of families
and communities to care for orphans and other vulnerable children. More
support should go to extended families that care for orphaned children,
to improve income-generating opportunities as well as their access to
credit and health care services.
and similar institutions often fail to provide consistent and adequate
care, especially for younger children. Strict measures are needed to
ensure that such institutions meet specific standards of care and comply
with the law. Limits should be placed on the length of time children
spend in these institutions, and programmes must be developed to integrate
the children back into the community.
programmes should not single out AIDS orphans. Rather, they should direct
services and community mobilization efforts at the communities in which
children and adolescents are made more vulnerable due to HIV/AIDS. Generally,
the people living in these communities are best placed to judge who
is at greatest risk and what factors should be used to guide appropriate
responses and assistance.
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