Children and young people whose parents have become infected with AIDS virus begin to suffer even before a parent or caregiver has died, the study goes on to say. Since children are unable to earn the same income as their parents, household income plummets. As a result, there is little money for food, clothing, medicine or other basic necessities. Education is interrupted and many children are forced to drop out to either care for a dying parent or go to work to earn money for others who may be too young. Children become depressed and feel alienated from their peers as well as from their families.
“Young boys and girls who are having to carry the burden of caring for their entire families eat less and sell whatever they can — even if that includes themselves.”
“Boys and girls who have been orphaned by AIDS are also stigmatized,” explains Missionary of Africa,”They are known as children whose parents have died from socially embarrassing disease. Besides having had to witness their parents suffering and death, they are now poorer and less healthy than non-orphaned children. They will have a hard time focusing on their education and on life in general. They have been traumatized in ways that few of us will ever be able to understand. And because they are uneducated, they will be subjected to the worst forms of child labor and abuse.”
With diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis continuing to claim the lives of millions of Africa’s poorest adults, millions more children are being left homeless and orphaned.
“Africa needs more than one billion dollars each year to care for the millions of orphans on the continent,” an official spokesman for the United Nations recently stated. “In less than five years,” the official continued, “there will be more than 50 million orphans in just 16 of Africa’s 53 countries.”
“Such a situation,” an African Union spokesman explained, “will easily destabilize countries because these children are vulnerable and they can be exploited. Funds will be needed for education and healthcare, but we don’t know at the moment where the money is coming from.”
“In the past, people used to care for the orphans and loved them,” a woman whose husband recently died from disease explained. “But these days they are so many, and many people have died who could have assisted them, and therefore orphan hood is a common phenomenon, not strange. The few who are alive cannot support them.”
“The epidemic of diseases such as AIDS and malaria in sub-Saharan Africa has already orphaned a generation of children,” explains Fr. John Lynch of the Missionaries of Africa. “Now it seems set to affect future generations.”
Official reports estimate that, at the moment, there are more than 34 million orphans in the region today and some 11 million of them have been orphaned by AIDS. Eight out of every 10 children in the world whose parents have died of AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. During the last decade, the proportion of children who are orphaned as a result of AIDS.