WomenAid International

Children of the world initiative


Millions of children are being orphaned as their parents die of AIDS related illnesses. The figures are unimaginable - 11 million children in sub-Saharan Africa alone have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. Reliable sources estimate that by 2010 there will be over 44 million orphans in the sub-Saharan, Asian, Latin America and Caribbean countries alone, 30 million of them orphaned by AIDS.
The scale of this emerging disaster can be indicated by one example: in Kagera Province, Tanzania, there are around 150,000 orphans out of a population of 800,000 people. Over 100,000 of these orphans receive no help. Vast numbers of young and old are being left to fend for themselves and are being pushed into a life of destitution, as governments are unable to fill the economic void.
Millions more are being orphaned by poverty and war. The most defenceless victims of the savagery of war are children who are terrorized, often sexually abused, mutilated, forced to participate in killing or enrolled as child soldiers. Recent wars have targeted children especially as they represent the future and in the last 10 years alone 1.5 million children have died in wars. Long after war is over it is the children who continue to be traumatized by their brutal experience and most at risk of being maimed by the hundreds of thousands of landmines left as a deadly legacy of war.
In many countries orphans are considered outcasts. Throughout the world millions of children are kept in grossly sub-standard orphanages and other institutions, suffering from inadequate food, clothing, medical care, lack of stimulation and neglect. Medical care for most orphans is limited and basic medical supplies are scarce. In most of the newly independent republics of the former Soviet Union, economic dislocation has ensured children in state institutions have not fared well. These orphanages receive scarce public or private support: children and staff survive primarily on intermittent food, bedding and clothing assistance from international donors. Most orphanage buildings have fallen into serious disrepair and lack functioning water and sewage services, electricity or basic heating facilities. 
In war-stricken Afghanistan there are one million orphans, many herded into disintegrating buildings, where disease is rampant, food minimal -bread, tea and a little rice - and the children do not even understand what a 'toy' is. The Afghan girl-child is especially vulnerable under the harshly repressive Taliban regime.

In China, millions of girl children are abandoned to starvation and unnatural death, dying in institutional care - the so called 'Dying Rooms'. Human Rights Watch report that many institutions appeared to be operating as little more than assembly lines for the elimination of unwanted orphans.


The question now being asked is ‘who will look after the children orphaned by AIDS?’ Family relatives are the first safety net and extended family structures are absorbing great numbers of orphans but poor families faced with more mouths to feed are being pushed deeper into poverty. Hundreds of thousands of orphans have no adult relatives left and already there are tens of thousands of child-headed households struggling alone. Many communities are devising innovative ways to provide the help the orphans need, such as setting up Community Child Care Committees. Non-governmental organizations are struggling to develop other innovative strategies, such as Cluster Foster Homes and Child Intervention Panels – but the truth is brutal – no country will have enough social workers to handle the care and protection of the rapidly increasing and vast number of orphans.
There is an urgent need for material aid for these 'community dependent children' as most communities dealing with the ever-increasing number of orphans are seriously impoverished from the outset. The care of a child is a long-term commitment and the global challenge is how to develop a sustainable system of care for all the years it will take to raise the orphan generations. Families, communities and cash strapped governments will need support and assistance on a long-term basis.


All orphans, wherever they are, must be helped to survive the trauma of their early childhood and must be provided with opportunities to develop fully their human potential.
The WomenAid Orphan Kidz - OK! programme is working to:-
Focus attention on the social impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemics upon children;
Provide urgent relief aid and support for children in distress;
Promote child rights advocacy and development and training ofRights Educators’;
Empower orphaned children fostering the spirit of self-reliance, advocate their cause and protect their rights
Initiate vocational training projects to provide children with usable skills for life.
Mobilise effective community responses to meet the unprecedented challenge and strengthen poverty-stricken communities offering care provision
Support individual, group and family carers and offer financial, material, logistical and training support
Formulate concrete orphan support policies, and promote the development of new models of care service delivery
Implement rehabilitation, refurbishment and construction programmes.

Concern for children and their development is a universal value, but millions of children in many countries, are living in intolerable conditions.WomenAid calls upon adults everywhere to give orphans a chance and to refuse to ‘tolerate the intolerable’.

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