Mass orphanhood in the era of HIV/AIDS

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7331.185 (Published 26 January 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:185

Bold support for alleviation of poverty and education may avert a social disaster

  1. Neddy Rita Matshalaga, research fellow and consultant (nrmatsha@maxwell.syr.edu) (nrmatsha@yahoo.com),
  2. Greg Powell, consultant and senior lecturer (gpowell@healthnet.zw)
  1. Institute of Development Studies, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box MP167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
  2. Department of Paediatrics, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box A178, Avondale, Harare, Zimbabwe

    AIDS has devastated the social and economic fabric of African societies and made orphans of a whole generation of children. Although donor agencies initially viewed the plight of orphans as a short term humanitarian disaster, they now acknowledge the long term social consequences of African children growing up without parental love and guidance. The potential for these children to form a large group of dysfunctional adults, which could further destabilise societies already weakened by AIDS, has increased the urgency of finding an effective solution to the orphan crisis.

    Africa is home to 95% of the world's 13 million children orphaned as a result of AIDS. The numbers will rise until at least 2010, by which time a third of African children will be orphaned. 1 2 These orphans' psychosocial needs are a growing concern. Orphans in Africa suffer recurrent psychological trauma, starting with the illness and deaths of their parents, followed by cycles of poverty, malnutrition, stigma, exploitation, and, often, sexual abuse. Experiencing this without family love and support, and without the education needed to understand and rise above their circumstances, these …

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