SOUTH AFRICA’S ORPHAN EMERGENCY
According to UNICEF, there are currently 3.6 million orphans in South Africa. Of these, approximately 2 million have been orphaned as a direct result of AIDS, and countless others have been orphaned as an indirect result. Children are the most vulnerable members of society. Without the support of parents, this orphan generation is subject to extreme stigma, exploitation, neglect, disease and a host of other circumstances unseen by any previous generation.
Within Johannesburg and surrounding areas, the need to protect and provide for the children orphaned by AIDS is beyond the capacity of any single government or agency. With nearly a fifth of the population unable to find work and half of the population living below the poverty line, “kinship networks” have been stretched beyond their means and cannot accommodate the influx of children needing a home and a family.
If children are left on their own, without the structure of family, they will often resort to raising themselves. Whether on the streets or heading a household at 12 years old, they are twice as likely to discontinue their schooling and twice as likely to contract HIV/AIDS. This hard environment is exacerbated by the fact that South Africa maintains the highest rate of rape in the world. Medical researchers have even gone as far as to say that “a female born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped in her lifetime than learning how to read.”
Like many developing countries, utterly abandoned children in South Africa reside on the dangerous margins of society, deprived of basic needs, vital protection and crucial services. The statistics show a hopeless view of the future, unless there is a major shift in the mindset of society.