The HIV/AIDS epidemic is creating generations of orphans in sub-Saharan Africa in a crisis that is massive, growing and long-term. By 2010, there will be approximately 20 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who have lost at least one parent to AIDS, bringing the total number of orphans in the region to over 40 million.
HIV/AIDS is devastating families, creating profound disruption and insecurity in the lives of millions of children and young people. The orphans, mostly between the ages of 10 and 15, are left without crucial guidance, protection and support as they approach adulthood. Orphaned children are at increased risk of malnutrition, physical and sexual abuse and other exploitation, and exposure to HIV infection.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is jeopardizing the rights and well-being of children even before they are orphaned. Children suffer the emotional stress of living with an ill parent, the financial stress of a decreased household income and the social stigma of having a person living with HIV/AIDS in their home. They are frequently compelled to take on the dual responsibilities of nursing ill parents and earning money. They often miss or drop out of school.
The demands of the orphan crisis are beyond the coping capacities of families and communities, which continue to be the frontline of the response to the orphan crisis. They need immediate, direct support to continue caring for children and young people orphaned by AIDS. The burden of caring for orphans is increasingly falling on households headed by women and older people.
The orphan crisis is not only tragic for millions of children and their families, but also has dangerous implications for the economic and social stability of African communities and countries. A childhood and adolescence without parental protection and support will leave millions of oprhans ill prepared to assume responsible, productive roles in society.
For more information and to order B-roll, please contact:
Liza Barrie, UNICEF New York,
Senior Communication Adviser, HIV/AIDS
(1-212) 326-7593, (1-646) 207-5178; firstname.lastname@example.org
Marixie Mercado, UNICEF New York, HIV/AIDS
(646) 247 2975; email@example.com
Marc Vergara, UNICEF Geneva,
(41-22) 909 5718; firstname.lastname@example.org
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva,
(41-22) 909 5712; email@example.com
Madeline Eisner, UNICEF Nairobi,
(254-2) 622-214, (254-722)520-595;