The Orphans of AIDS

Imagine that you're 12 years old. Your father died five years ago. Two years ago, your mother got sick. You left school to help tend to her, and to care for your little brothers and sisters. You've tried to grow corn on your family land, but there's a drought and you haven't learned enough yet to be a good farmer.
Now, your mother has died, too. In the midst of your grief and your fear for the future, questions keep you awake at night:

What will happen to us now?
How will we live?

Not Enough Help Available
Swaziland is trying to help these children, but the resources are too few and the needs are too great. READ MORE...







The Orphan's Voices

Swazi orphans talk about their lives in UNICEF's new book, “About Us: Ngatsi.” These excerpts are reprinted with the permission of UNICEF.


Unfortunately, those questions are the reality for more and more children in Swaziland as their parents die of AIDS. And sadly for some, they also have to face being HIV positive themselves.

There's an old saying that “there are no orphans in Africa.” With the tradition of the extended family, there was always someone to take in a child and care for her – an uncle, a cousin, even a neighbour. But the toll of AIDS is growing so heavy in Swaziland, that's no longer true. Families are losing more and more adults, so there are fewer left to care for the orphans left behind. The extended family structure is breaking down, and the children are the victims.

Because AIDS predominantly kills younger adults, in most cases orphan children are left in the care of grandparents, if they have them. On some homesteads, one gogo (“grandmother” in siSwati) has seen four or five of her children die and she must care for all her grandchildren alone. Unfortunately, this older generation is at the point where their own children should be helping them. Most are too old to work – if jobs were available. Many are even too old to tend the family fields and grow food.

The most unfortunate orphans are the children who don't have living relatives, or relatives who are willing or able to take them in. They have to care for themselves with no adult help, making them the most vulnerable. It's a sad fact that there are people who take advantage of their hunger and poverty, promising food and other presents in return for work and sex. Your Young Heroes sponsorship can allow them to say “no” to this exploitation.

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