Friday, November 30, 2007

What Will Become of Africa’s AIDS Orphans? part 1

What Will Become of Africa’s AIDS Orphans? part 1

New York Times Magazine
December 22, 2002

Four years ago, a fifth grader in my children's elementary school in Atlanta lost his father in a twin-engine private plane crash. The terrible news whipped through the community; hundreds attended the funeral. Even today, there is a wisp of tragedy about the tall, blond high-school freshman -- fatherless, at so young an age. I find myself thinking about him when surveying the playground of one of the countless hole-in-the-wall orphanages of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Behind corrugated iron walls off a dirt road, schoolgirls in donated clothing are throwing pebbles and waggling their long legs out behind them in hopscotch. Other girls sit on kitchen chairs in the shade of a cement wall, braiding and rebraiding one another's hair. They weave in plastic beads in arrangements so tight that the completed hairdo looks like an abacus. Boys lope back and forth with a half-deflated soccer ball.

Virtually all of these children have lost both parents, most to AIDS. Malaria, yellow fever and especially TB are fatal illnesses here, too. ..:namespace prefix = v ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml" />..:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />..:namespace prefix = w ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" />The children's grandparents have also died or are too poor and sick to care for the children; the same is true of their aunts and uncles, their neighbors and teachers. But no single one of these children has been isolated by tragedy: being orphaned is one of the common experiences of their generation. Ethiopia has one of the world's largest populations infected with H.I.V. and AIDS. The number of AIDS orphans in Ethiopia is estimated at a million, most of whom end up living on the streets.

But in a hierarchy among orphans, those here at Layla House are the most fortunate. They are H.I.V. negative and healthy, and they have landed in one of two excellent American adoption programs in this city, both generating high interest among prospective adoptive parents in the United States. But they have been plucked out of immeasurable tragedy.

''This is the most devastating pandemic to sweep the earth for many centuries,'' says Dr. Mark Rosenberg, executive director of the Atlanta-based Task Force for Child Survival and Development. He compares the moral imperative to stop the epidemic in Africa, Asia and South America to the era of the Holocaust and imagines that future generations will ask, ''What did you do to help?''

When I visit one on one with some of the children in a cool cinder-block storeroom, I discover that each is more like the fatherless Atlanta boy than not. As a group, the children generate a carefree mood of ruckus and play, but their secret grief coexists with the brave frolicking. Being orphaned may be typical for their peer group, but it pierces each child in a uniquely tragic way. The boys and girls remember and long for their prior lives, their deceased families, their homes -- whether middle-class house or rural hut -- and their childhoods that once were normal.

Yemisrach is a big-boned, innocent-faced 15- or 16-year-old. ''I live with my parents until age 9,'' she says. ''We are two girls, two boys. First Mother died; then Father died of malaria. I become like a mother to the others.''

Though they try to hold onto their memories, it is possible that the children don't have all of their facts straight. But no one is left to correct them, and the child becomes the family historian.

''My father drink too much, and he fall on the gate, and he get a stone on his head, and he went to the hospital and died,'' says sweet, worried-looking Yirgalem, whose forehead is too creased for his young age. ''After that, he buried.''

Robel is a rambunctious 8-year-old of the half-baked-schoolwork type. It is easy to picture him as a bike-riding, Nintendo-loving American boy. He has surmised that hospital treatment killed his mother. ''I was born in Tigray,'' he says, speaking through a translator like most of the younger kids. ''Then went with my parents to Sudan as refugees. My father would get food from the refugee camp and bring it to the house. Mother died in Sudan. She went to hospital for injection. First injection is good; second time, she is tired; third injection, she died. Then I hear people crying about father. They said, 'Your father has died.'

''My small sister, Gelila, is 4. When Gelila see something in my hand, she cry, so I give her. She does not remember our parents.''

There is a terrible sameness to the stories. They all head down the same path: the mother's death, then the father's; or Father died, then Mother, then Small Sister, then funny Baby Brother. Alone, bringing out the words of the family's end, a child's eyes fill with tears; the chest fills with sobs. Bedtime is the worst, when all shenanigans die down. At night, ghosts and visions and bad dreams visit the children. Through the open windows, you can hear kids crying into their pillows.

The orphans are not confined to the cities. In small farming towns hundreds of miles outside of Addis Ababa, children rush cars, offering flip-flops, bars of soap, packages of tissue or tree branches heavy with nuts. Those with nothing to sell offer labor: they will wash your windshield or watch your car for you if you park it. Some of these children are, at very young ages, the sole wage earner for their families. Orphaned in the countryside, they have migrated to the villages and towns where they have become squatters, trying to feed themselves and their younger siblings in alley dwellings improvised from scrap lumber or cloth or plastic. ''Almost without exception, children orphaned by AIDS are marginalized, stigmatized, malnourished, uneducated and psychologically damaged,'' Carol Bellamy, executive director of Unicef, said last month in Namibia. ''They are affected by actions over which they have no control and in which they had no part. They deal with the most trauma, face the most dangerous threats and have the least protections. And because of all this, they, too, are very likely to become H.I.V. positive.'' She warned that the growing numbers of AIDS orphans means that the world will see ''an explosion in the number of child prostitutes, children living on the streets and child domestic workers.'' Eight-year-old Mekdalawit, from Dire Dawa, living in Layla House, remembers the days of her parents' deaths: ''My sister Biruktawit is a baby lying on the floor with her feet in the air -- like this. Our older sister throw herself in front of the car and scream and yell that she wants to die if our father is dead. Then our mother becomes so ill that she cannot move from her bed. She cannot eat, and she has sores all over her body, and she loves for us to gently scratch her skin.'' Mekdalawit and Biruktawit's eight older siblings tried to raise them, but they were obliged to leave home each day for school and for jobs. Worried that the youngest two would wander away from the family hut and be lost, the older children warned that monsters would catch and eat little girls if they didn't stay inside. Finally a few of the oldest brought the youngest two to the local authorities, who referred them to the Children, Youth and Family Affairs Department, known as the Children's Commission. It placed them in Layla House. The older sisters tearfully promised to visit, but their village is far from the capital.

Enat House in Addis Ababa, not far from Layla House, is run by a husband and wife, Gezahegn Wolde Yohannes and Atsedeweyen Abraham. The children who live here are all H.I.V. positive, the smallest victims of the continent's collision with H.I.V./AIDS: not only have they lost their mothers and fathers and siblings, but they themselves are sick. Some of them have begun to lose their hair; others are frighteningly thin; others have facial sores; and all but the babies and toddlers know precisely, in grim detail, what that means. At Enat, the first clue that the health of another child has taken a downward turn is the child's refusal to enter into the games and exercises she enjoyed last week. A child sitting listlessly on the curb at this playground is an awful omen. The day I visit Enat (an Amharic word for ''mother''), the directors and the teachers are mourning the death of a 6-year-old boy a few days earlier. But on the dirt playground, shaded by eucalyptus trees, the little girls weave one another's hair, and the children are awaiting a visit from their beloved guitar-playing P.E. teacher. The homey sour smell of injera -- the national bread, a spongy sourdough flat pancake -- rises from an outdoor brick kitchen. Later, in a sunny, freshly mopped dining hall, the children seat themselves at long tables for an art class. A glass vase of cut flowers sparkles with clean water on a tabletop. The children from rural areas never have seen scissors before, and their fingers wiggle with eagerness when the teacher begins handing out brightly colored plastic scissors. Yes, there are enough -- Christ Lutheran Church of Forest Hills, Pa., sent plenty in their boxes of donations. Following instructions, the children generate a blizzard of paper scraps in their first attempts to form snowflakes. (They have never seen snowflakes either). Stocky little Bettye is a pint-size Ethel Merman with a husky belly laugh and a booming voice. She pokes her tongue out the corner of her mouth as she scissors, in classic kindergarten style. The children hold up their lopsided constructions for one another to see, and they hoot in surprise.

The teacher, a slim woman in a long brown dress and head scarf, murmurs words of praise and often bends to stroke a child on the cheek, a gesture of calming affection. Later, I watch a music class, which consists of much hands-on-hip swaying and jumping under the guidance of the guitar-playing young P.E. teacher. Bettye belts out the words of the songs and jerks her fat little tush around. Eyob is a handsome, endearing boy in baggy brown pants and loafers, who slightly stalls his hand claps and foot-stomps till the last moment of each beat; I think he is inventing swing. But Eyob's hair is coming out in tufts. So is Bettye's. And there are no older children at this house; there are no older H.I.V.-positive children at all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Youth AIDS


In March 2007, YouthAIDS Global Ambassador, Ashley Judd teamed up with Bollywood stars Sushmita Sen, Akshay Kumar and Shah Rukh Khan to explore how HIV travels from high-risk groups to the general population and why young women are increasingly at risk for infection. On this collaborative tour, the team visited brothels and slums in Mumbai to truck stops in Jaipur to the affluent communities of Delhi. National Geographic Channel will host the world premiere screening of the film that documents the journey, "India's Hidden Plague." The film will premiere in the US on Friday, November 30 at 10 PM
ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.

Keep A Child Alive

Keep a Child Alive

KEEP A CHILD ALIVE is an urgent response to the AIDS pandemic ravaging Africa. With more than 28 million dead and 15 million orphaned, the disease continues, wiping out whole societies, threatening economic infrastructure and creating tragic family devastation. We provide life-saving medication, support, and orphan care, to keep these children and families alive. Keep a Child Alive gives 100%* of public donations to our cause.

KEEP A CHILD ALIVE is an urgent response to the AIDS pandemic ravaging Africa. With 28 million already dead, the disease continues, wiping out whole societies, threatening economic infrastructure and creating tragic devastation in the family structure.

TREATMENT: Anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment has transformed the lives of people with AIDS in the West, returning them from sickness to health. But less than 5% of children with AIDS have access to these life-saving drugs. When you sign up to become a monthly, or "Life" donor, 100%* of your monthly donation goes directly to life-saving AIDS drugs and surrounding care.

CARE: Keep a Child Alive provides medical services needed to make treatment possible. Doctors, nutrition, testing, transportation, and treatment for opportunistic infections are all necessary for anti-retroviral treatment to be successful. When necessary, KCA also provides nutrition for its patients.

ORPHANS: Currently 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, and by 2010 the number is expected to reach 25 million. These children will face enormous risks in their struggle to stay alive. Keep a Child Alive builds and sustains orphanages to keep the most vulnerable children out of harm's way. Orphanages are a last resort, but necessary when children have no extended family to turn to for support.

* Less a 3% credit card fee

Cry of the Orphan

..> About Us

The 2007 Awareness Campaign, Cry of the Orphan, marks the second annual unified campaign to heighten awareness of the plight of the 143 million orphans around the world. The scope of this problem is too big for any one person or organization to solve. In the midst of this crisis, organizations from around the world are joining forces to make a difference. The Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAO) seeks to "motivate and unify the body of Christ to live out God's mandate to care for the orphan." With over 75 members, the Christian Alliance for Orphans desires to see "every orphan experiencing God's unfailing love and knowing Jesus as Savior."

Through this awareness campaign sponsored by FamilyLife, Focus on the Family, and Shaohannah's Hope, members of the Christian Alliance for Orphans are lifting the cause of orphans with one voice in order to see Christians, churches, and organizations united for change. We believe that "you are God's plan for the orphan" – each of us with our own role to play in caring for His children.

The Christian Alliance for Orphans has four categories for membership: Orphan Care, Adoption and Child Placement, Church-based Orphan Ministry, and Advocacy and Awareness. If your organization or church desires to be part of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, please feel free to download the member requirements.

Below is a complete list of current CAO members:

4KIDS of South Florida
Adoption by G.R.A.C.E from Lee's Summit Community Church
Advocate for Orphans International
All Kids Can Learn Intl.
Amber Outreach Project
America World Adoption
Antioch Adoptions
Bethany Christian Services
Bring Me Hope/North Coast Calvary
Buckner International
Caroline's Promise
Christ Chapel Bible Church
Christian Adoption Services, Inc.
Christian Family Care Agency
Colorado Family Services
Crown Financial Ministries
DFW Alliance of Adoption and Orphan Care Ministries
Every Orphan's Hope
First Christian Assembly
First Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, MO
Focus on the Family
Food for Orphans
Forgotten Children International
Global Aid Network
God's Families International Adoption Services
God's Kids
Grace Brethren Church in Long Beach, CA
Here I am Orphan Ministries
His Children
Holt International Children's Services
Hope Missionary Church
Hope Unlimited
Hope's Promise
International Christian Adoption
Kingdom Kids Adoption Ministries
Life International
Lifeline Children's Servicers
Lifeline on the Vine/Inverness Vineyard Church
Love Basket INC
LOVEM Care Ministries
Loving and Caring
Loving Shepherd Ministries
LYDIA Fund/Bethlehem Babtist Church
Lydia Home Association
Nightlight Christian Adoptions
Open Arms Adoption/Orphan Ministry
Orphan Action
Orphan Helpers
Orphan Outreach
Orphan's Promise
Portraits of Hope/Foothills Forever Families
Project 1.27
Reach Orphans with Hope
Russian Ministries
Saddleback Church
SGT Adoption and Orphan Care Ministry
Shaohannah's Hope, Inc.
Southern Gables Church/Precious Stones Adoption Ministry
Tapestry/Irving Bible Church
The Abba Fund
Vision Trust International
Warm Blankets Orphan Care
World Orphans

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kenya 3 Words

Africa: A Continent of Orphans

AFRICA: A Continent of Orphans
By Mario de Queiroz
LISBON, Dec 13 (IPS) - War, AIDS, malaria, cholera and famine have gradually turned Africa into a continent full of orphaned children and teenagers. According to the latest statistics released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), there are 48.3 million orphans south of the Sahara desert, one-quarter of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of orphans in Africa rose from 30.9 million to 41.5 million, and those orphaned by AIDS increased from 330,000 to seven million. Projections by the two U.N. agencies suggest that by 2010, there will be 53.1 million children under 18 bereft of their parents, 15.7 million of whom will have had parents who died of AIDS, caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In response to these stark figures, Portuguese authorities have indicated that their country maintains strong historic links with Africa, and Interior Minister Antonio Santos da Costa has called on the Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR) to create a reception centre exclusively for African children arriving in Portugal unaccompanied by an adult. The minister's challenge was immediately taken up by CPR's chairwoman, Maria Teresa Tito de Morais, in spite of the fact that because of a lack of funds, "few unaccompanied children have arrived in Portugal" so far, as she explained to IPS. The spine-chilling statistics on African orphans estimate that there are 170,000 orphaned children in Mauritania, 710,000 in Mali, 800,000 in Niger, 600,000 in Chad, 1.7 million in Sudan, 280,000 in Eritrea, 48,000 in Djibouti, 4.8 million in Ethiopia, 630,000 in Somalia, 560,000 in Senegal, 710,000 in Burkina Faso, 370,000 in Benin, 64,000 in The Gambia, 100,000 in Guinea-Bissau and 370,000 in Guinea. Nigeria has 8.6 million orphans, Ivory Coast 1.4 million, Liberia 250,000, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic 340,000 each, Ghana and Cameroon one million each, Equatorial Guinea 29,000, Gabon 65,000, the Republic of the Congo 270,000, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) 4.2 million, Rwanda 820,000 and Burundi 600,000. Uganda and Kenya are home to 2.3 million orphans each, Tanzania to 2.4 million, Angola and Zambia 1.2 million each, the Comoros 33,000, Malawi 950,000, Namibia 140,000, Botwsana 150,000, Zimbabwe 1.4 million, Mozambique 1.5 million, Madagascar 900,000, Lesotho 150,000, and Swaziland and South Africa 2.5 million each. The reception centre to be established in northern Portugal will "take in orphan children who are still in foreign countries, even their home countries, waiting for fate to give direction to their lives. This will be a means of preventing them from becoming child soldiers, for instance," said Tito de Morais. To date, despite its special relationship with several African countries that were former Portuguese colonies, "Portugal has not had a strong tradition of receiving unaccompanied children," she said. "In 2006 we have only taken in 10, but since the government expressed an openness to welcome African orphans, we immediately went to work so that in two years time, or two and a half, the reception centre should be ready," she added. In the initial stage "we will be able to receive 40 children, divided into four groups: newborns to three-year-olds, and ages four to six, seven to 10, and 10 to 12," she described. Meanwhile, "at our current refugee centre we have set aside room especially for children, and we are already in communication with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) about identifying children in need of international protection, who may arrive before the new centre is ready," she added. On another front, "we will contact several mayors in the north of the country in January, because the cooperation and commitment of the municipalities is essential, as securing the land for building the centre is the first step toward making this cooperation possible," said Tito de Morais. During the Balkan wars in the early 1990s, which were contemporary with the civil wars in Angola and Mozambique, Portugal took in orphans, particularly from Bosnia. At that time, a survey was carried out among couples potentially interested in adopting children. The poll found that the vast majority of respondents would prefer to adopt an African child from a former Portuguese colony, rather than one from the former Yugoslavia. The reasons given were the shared historical, linguistic and cultural identity with Angolans and Mozambicans. This result, a contrast with majority attitudes in the rest of Europe, according to Tito de Morais shows that "Portuguese people have a special sensitivity for welcoming vulnerable children, whatever their race or nationality, and in our experience, African children have never been excluded." Portugal's relationship with Africa, while often traumatic, has been a fundamental factor in the last six centuries of its history. Portugal, a pioneer in colonialism in Africa, founded its first colony there in 1415, and was virtually the last European power to leave the continent, in 1975. To this day, the cloud of what some historians and analysts call "the debt of colonialism" continues to hang over Portugal as a kind of collective "post-imperial guilt complex." Brazilian writer Gilberto Freyre (1900-1987) took a more benevolent attitude towards Portugal's colonial history in his book, whose title translates as "The World Created by the Portuguese" (1940), in which he concluded that Portugal's openness towards Africa, Brazil and its former colonies in Asia was due to the multicultural and multirracial nature of Portuguese society over many centuries. As a result, Portugal today "is the most diverse country in Europe, and travelling in its former African colonies one finds that there are white Africans, and in this country, that there are black Portuguese," Silvio Manuel de Paula, an Angolan-born pilot who holds dual Portuguese and Angolan nationality, told IPS. "That alone suffices to explain Portuguese openness to welcoming and adopting African orphans," de Paula said.

Orphans in India

India today is home to the largest number of AIDS orphans in the world (the UN estimates children orhaned by AIDS as those under the age of 18 who have lost one or both parents to the disease). While India's AIDS orphan crisis is not as dire as Africa's, it is on the trajectory Africa was during the last decade. With widespread migrant labor, prostitution and a stigma about sexually-transmitted diseases causing an explosion in AIDS cases, India is expected to become the next epicenter of the AIDS orphan crisis. Though there are no government figures in the country for the number of children affected by AIDS, World Bank estimates suggest that the number of children in India orphaned by AIDS is approaching 2 million.
Who among us will help these children?

AIDS Orphans

Because of disease, poverty and hunger, children around the world are suffering. They face unimaginable daily living conditions, alone and without hope of a better future. Many will die before reaching adulthood.
One of the most devastating challenges for suffering children is the impact of HIV/AIDS, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Fifteen million children have been orphaned by AIDS, a number that is expected to increase to 40 million by 2010. Every 14 seconds, a child is orphaned by AIDS in Africa.
Can you help?