Up to three million
children will be orphaned within the next 10 years, most of whom will grow up in
extreme poverty, tempting them to turn to crime, drugs, gangs and the sex trade,
the ISS said.
Orphan epidemic in its infancy
Three hundred thousand
children have already lost their mothers to Aids. Yet, according to a case study
conducted by the University
It is estimated that
10 000 children currently live or work on the streets of
Turning to crime and leaving school
Growing up without
parental supervision or proper care by relatives and welfare organisations,
orphans are more likely to become involved in crime, according to Martin Schönteich,
a senior ISS researcher and co-author of an African Security Review article
titled 'Africa's new security threat: HIV/Aids and human security in southern
Orphaned children are forced to take care of themselves, and are often compelled to leave school to look after their siblings. With projections suggesting that about one in five children of school-going age in South Africa will be orphaned by 2010, school dropout rates can be expected to increase.
improvements in matriculation rates are likely to be reversed, the
The children's fund
survey, covering 20 townships and villages in four provinces, said the orphans
identified their needs as the most basic: food, clothing and education.
According to the
study, the level of deprivation in respect of these basic needs was so deeply
felt that many children shed tears when they spoke about their needs.
The researchers found that a good number of these children, some as young as four to five years old, had gone for days without food.
Some spoke about the
humiliation of begging for food from neighbours or of being ridiculed by
teachers and other children because they did not have school uniforms or because
their parents had died from Aids.
Treatment needed for parents
Council (MRC) researcher Debbie Bradshaw said little could be done to reduce the
number of these children in the short-term, other than introducing a national
antiretroviral treatment programme.
Bradshaw says that a
large number of people are already infected with HIV, and unless treatment is
provided, they will not live long enough to look after their kids.
The MRC has called for increased development of and support for community-based care projects, and the expansion of state assistance to those caring for orphaned children.
Psychological and physical threats
According to an MRC
policy brief published in May, orphaned children are not only traumatised by the
death of their parents whose physical deterioration they may have witnessed, but
they also lack parental guidance through crucial life-stages as they grow up.
effects are exacerbated by threats to survival such as a lack of food, housing,
education, healthcare and protection from exploitation and abuse.
Government struggling to deal with current situation
Ministry of social development spokesperson Mbulelo Musi said that the growing numbers of Aids orphans were of great concern to the government.
State resources to deal with these children were already inadequate, Musi said, and will be stretched even further.
According to Musi, the department is experiencing difficulties getting childcare grants to orphans, as many did not have the birth certificates and ID documents required to register for the grants.The government has various campaigns aimed at increasing the number of children registered, and has resolved to adopt a phased approach to extending child support grants to children below 14 years old, and, eventually, to 18. The current age limit is seven.