The Cape Argus, Three million Aids orphans within 10 years, By Caroline Hooper-Box, 06 October 2002

South Africa is sitting on an Aids orphan time-bomb that is threatening to blow up into a crime and civil unrest wave of massive proportions. We can expect three million children to be orphaned within the next 10 years.

The burgeoning orphan population, who will grow up under extreme levels of poverty, will be sorely tempted - or even obliged for their physical survival - to turn to crime, drugs, gangs and the sex trade, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

South Africa already has 30 000 maternal Aids orphans, yet, according to a case study conducted by the University of Natal's health, economics and HIV and Aids research division for a Unicef global study, the "orphan epidemic" is still in its infancy and over the next few years is expected to grow to "devastating proportions".

In developing countries 2,5 percent of the population was orphaned before the HIV and Aids pandemic. In South Africa this figure is expected to rise to almost 17 percent by 2010. By 2015, Aids orphans will constitute between nine and 12 percent of the total population.

It is estimated that 10 000 children currently live or work on the streets of South Africa. This figure is set to rise dramatically.

According to a Medical Research Council policy brief published in May, orphaned children "are not only traumatised by the loss of parents (whose physical deterioration they may have witnessed), they lack the necessary parental guidance through crucial life-stages of identity formation and socialisation into their adulthood".