Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Steady increase in street children orphaned by AIDS

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14-year-old Mandefro Kassa lives on the streets of Bahr Dar, Ethiopia. The country counts one of the largest populations of orphans in the world: 13 per cent of children are missing one or both parents.

By Indrias Getachew

BAHR DAR, Amhara Region, Ethiopia, 20 January 2006 – “The street has been my home since I can remember. It’s been more than one year since I moved here (Bahr Dar) and all this time, I have not seen one good thing about living on the street. Everything is horrible,” says 14-year-old Mandefro Kassa, who grew up as an orphan on the streets of Woreta, a provincial town in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia counts one of the largest populations of orphans in the world: 13 per cent of children throughout the country are missing one or both parents. This represents an estimated 4.6 million children – 800,000 of whom were orphaned by HIV/AIDS.  
 
The country has seen a steady increase in the number of children becoming orphaned because of AIDS. In the past, famine, conflict and other diseases were the main factors that claimed the lives of parents

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Street children are continuously exposed to various forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation. They do not have access to basic rights such as access to proper care, education, psychological support and supervision.

Grim statistics

Many street children like Mandefro don’t have access to basic rights such as proper care, education, psychological support and supervision. Often, orphans and other vulnerable children are forced to work to earn an income. They are exposed to various forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation.

  • In Addis Ababa more than 30 per cent of girls aged 10-14 are not living with their parents. Twenty per cent of these 30 per cent have run away from child marriages.

  • Twelve per cent of adolescents aged 10-14 – of the 30 per cent not living with their parents – surveyed in two areas of Addis Ababa were domestic workers. They are very young, very vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and typically have no legal or social support.

  • In the Amhara region, the average age of marriage for girls is 14, while at the national level the mean age for marriage is 17.

  • There are about 2.5 million children with disabilities.

No social net for vulnerable children

Very few government services help orphans. The primary coping strategy for communities has therefore been the extended family. Increasingly, however, the capacity of the extended family to support the growing numbers of orphans is declining.

“As more and more parents die, the capacity of the extended family to take care of orphans becomes smaller and smaller,” says Björn Ljungqvist, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia. “In all countries where you have a big HIV/AIDS epidemic, at first you don’t see any orphans at all, as they are absorbed by the traditional systems. And then all of a sudden you seem to reach some type of breaking point and you start finding these children in the streets, you start finding them working in difficult conditions, you start finding even child-headed households.”

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© UNICEF video
UNICEF, in partnership with local HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Offices as well as government ministries, is responding to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Ethiopia through collaboration with NGOs, youth and community-based organizations.

UNICEF engaged in helping children affected by HIV/AIDS

UNICEF is supporting the rights of children affected by HIV. This includes efforts to alleviate the personal and social impact of the pandemic by ensuring comprehensive care and support to children and families affected by HIV and AIDS.

Strategies include:

  • strengthening the capacity of extended families,

  • mobilizing and strengthening community and home-based responses,

  • strengthening the capacity of children and young people to meet their own needs,

  • ensuring the government protects the most vulnerable children and provides essential policies and services,

  • creating an enabling environment for HIV and AIDS-affected children and their families.

UNICEF is also trying to reduce children’s vulnerability to HIV by ensuring that they have access to their right to health, education, equality and protection. Children have become the most vulnerable and most prone group to be infected with HIV. This is particularly true of adolescent girls and young women – those aged 15-24 – who constitute between 40 and 50 per cent of all new infections.

Key partnerships

UNICEF, in partnership with federal and regional HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Offices, as well as government ministries, is responding to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Ethiopia through collaborations with non-governmental organizations, and youth and community-based organizations.

There are around 10,000 Anti-AIDS Clubs in the country, and UNICEF Ethiopia sees these partnerships as the most efficient way to reach children who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Sabine Dolan contributed to this report from New York.


 

 

Video

20 January 2006:
14-year-old Mandefro Kassa lives on the streets of Bahr Dar, Ethiopia. Here he talks about his life in his own words.

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