The increase in the number of orphans in Africa has had disastrous consequences for not only the economy but also for the children’s emotional development. AIDS is one of the largest contributors to the prevalence of orphans due to poverty. To resolve this tragedy, Africa is focusing on financial assistance, identifying children in need, and evaluating each family’s capability of providing orphan care. 48 million children ages zero to 18 are orphaned in Africa. Experts believe that by 2010 that number reached 53 million children lacking homes. Community efforts along with national efforts have risen, however, the issue is not resolving alone. Support for vulnerable families and children augmented, partially due to the rising participation of nations, and spreading awareness of AIDS (The African Orphan Crisis and International Adoption). The main cause of orphans in Africa is one of the deadliest diseases today, AIDS. Aids is a slow-acting disease caused by HIV. AIDS is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, rectal fluids, and breast milk.
Unfortunately, “…More than one in five children will be orphaned by 2010; more than 80 percent of whom will have lost one or both parents due to AIDS” (Barrie 1). Although AIDS is a common disease in Africa, the filthy living conditions in many areas cause AIDS to easily spread. There are many risks for orphans to catch this disease as well. About 8.2 million children have been orphaned as a result of this deadly disease. Infants are at risk for frequent infections, poor nutrition/growth, developmental delays, and attachment issues. While school-age children are at risk for loss of education, sexual, physical, and verbal abuse, and child labor. Although adolescents’ risks are somewhat similar to what school-age children face, they go a bit farther. For example, adolescents are at high risk for depression, teen pregnancy, and becoming a primary caretaker for their siblings, and maybe excluded from employment (The Politics of HIV/AIDS in South Africa: government action and public response, Lodge).
There is currently no cure for this murderous epidemic. There are treatments and medications to help keep the disease under control, however, it is unlikely people will be able to afford these medications. “Infectious and parasitic diseases remain the main killers of children in the developing world, partly as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” (WHO 1). The majority of orphans get HIV/AIDS passed down to them genetically, therefore infecting the extended family’s home. Resulting in a colossus revenue reduction, and more lives, unfortunately, lost. A majority of people woefully experience the painful symptoms that come with this disease. Some of these include pneumonia, night sweats, rapid weight loss, and agonizing sores. Women’s rights are often unnoticed when they are a gargantuan burden when it comes to the spread of this disease. For orphans and vulnerable children, the worst thing is being born from an infected mother. Although mothers and young children are contiguously linked, neither of them are being considered as the main component in any resolutions. The distinct needs of each orphan need to be met, and by doing so they need to include the key components they are missing.
Early childhood development is indispensable, and unfortunately, most orphans are lacking this, due to the loss of their mothers. Additionally, 13 million children under the age of 15 have lost their mother to AIDS. There are over 200 million orphans lacking full development, resulting in a decrease in GDP by 20 percent. If children are not fully developed they could struggle to fight off parasitic and infectious epidemics (their country’s largest killers) and follow their mother’s footsteps (Children’s Environmental Health, WHO). Most orphans are being cared for by extended family, and a question many have is how are these penurious families supposed to care for children with their lack of income, and HIV/AIDS spreading throughout their home? The countries where extended family is most needed, are already overwhelmed, and unfortunately will see the largest increases in orphans. A recent study taken in Africa revealed that extended family care ranges from inadequate to capable. “Many countries are seeing growing proportions of families headed by women and grandparents” (Barrie 1). However, 90 percent of orphans are being cared for by extended families. Actions need to be taken or future children will experience even more destruction of this killer disease (Africa’s Orphan Crisis: Worst is Yet to Come, Barrie). “The plight of Africa’s AIDS orphans has reached crisis proportions…” (Shaw 1). The disease is spreading, orphaning an increased number of children. Additional attention is needed to eradicate the issue, despite what has already been done. Citizens of these countries are aware that action needs to be taken, however, the government is not providing the supplies they need. They pleaded to the international community and government and ended up with little support. Their plan was to provide much needed medical care for children and families. Additionally, they wanted to provide food for those same people living in dire conditions. The government is aware of how critical it is to resolve this issue but continues to do almost nothing (National Plans of Action for Orphans, Engle). Questions are continually being asked in order to resolve this issue, but many are left unanswered. There have been many local efforts with little progress, however global efforts are making a difference. “The ongoing failure to respond to the orphan crisis will have grave implications not just for the children themselves, but for the communities and nations Bellamy said” (Barrie 1).
As of 2006, countries Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, and Swaziland refuted participating in fundraisers and Unicef for AIDS and ECD. Although questions are being asked, and countries are starting to work together, little progress is truly being made. “Is there a planned national-level intersectoral organizing structure” (Engle 24). “The report shows that many of the most severely affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa have no national policies to address the needs of orphaned children, including children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS” (Barrie 1). Further knowledge about AIDS needs to be made in order to resolve this ongoing issue (Africa’s Orphan Crisis: Worst is Yet to Come, Barrie). Fortuitously, some African orphans are starting to tell their story, and hopefully spread awareness. For example, a handful of African orphans described experiencing, ”psychological distress with the perceived loss of childhood and the subsequent need to prematurely assume adult roles. This may be referred to as a process of ‘parentification,’’’ (Harms, 5). A study was also taken by Rubaale, Satzinger, and Kipp. Their study was conducted to observe health apprehensions, while Gardner and Cluver conducted a study of the psychological factors of children orphaned by AIDS.
An interesting observation was the articulated tension when orphans were compared to biological children as if they were uncomfortable with the term. A number of orphans also faced the fear of not being able to provide food for their families. The study also showed that education and caregiving were clearly affected by poverty. (The Orphaning Experience, Harms). An additional study was coordinated to reveal how an individual orphan is affected. A large number of unfavorable health effects was the result. Examples include higher mortality rates, stunted growth, and extremely poor physical health.
Studies suggest caregivers, poverty, and illnesses play a role. The psychological effects were also observed. Many orphans appeared to have poor mental health due to a lack of care providers, discrimination, and abuse. The study revealed orphans were more likely to experience anxiety and depression, or other mental health disorders. The majority of orphans in psychological distress were found to have early sexual behaviors, to live in poverty, and have fewer educational opportunities. The African Orphan Crisis needs to be solved, yet the countries are not answering all questions that have been asked about the crisis. Several countries continue to reject participating in the national plans of action. “Orphans and orphan care is a critical issue and there is a need for short-term and long term orphan care interventions” (WHO 1). In order to reduce the number of orphans in Africa, the countries need to unite and find a way to solve the AIDS crisis (Children’s Environmental Health, WHO).
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