A Global Epidemic: According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), across the globe more than 25 million people have died since the epidemic began and an estimated 33 million now live with HIV and AIDS1. The epidemic, which affects people of all backgrounds, has had an overwhelming effect on children. Fifteen million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS and millions of others are made vulnerable as their communities are threatened.2
The UAOCF has chosen a sustainable, localized approach in response to this overwhelming problem. Here's a step-by-step summary tracing this global crisis to the local level at which the UAOCF operates:
Sub-Saharan Africa at Risk
According to recent statistics, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to two-thirds of all HIV/AIDS cases and accounts for 72% of AIDS deaths worldwide.1 The area has nearly 12 million children under the age of 18 orphaned due to AIDS-related deaths.2 UNAIDS predicts that this number will rise to over 14 million orphans by 2015 as HIV-positive parents become ill and die from AIDS.1 The poverty in these developing nations can be crippling, and when the AIDS crisis collides with pre-existing poverty, families and children suffer. UNICEF describes it this way: “AIDS takes its toll on limited household finances, time spent in caring for sick family members, and in family productivity, let alone the sheer human cost of lost children, family members and whole swathes of the community.”3
Uganda, a country in eastern Africa with a population of almost 31 million people, has an estimated 1 million people who are HIV-positive. In 2007, there were an estimated 2.5 million child orphans in Uganda; of these, 1.2 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS.4 In fact, data from 20035 suggest that almost a quarter of these children (23%) have lost both parents to AIDS, while 42% lost their mother and 35% lost their father. Surveys conducted between 2005 and 2007 found that only 11% of orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda were in households receiving basic support such as education assistance, medical care, clothing and financial support.2 That suggests that almost 90% of Ugandan children under age 18 who have lost a parent to AIDS – over one million of them – aren’t getting the basic assistance they need.
Kabale's AIDS Legacy
In our target area (Southwestern Uganda), which includes four of the 80 districts in Uganda, there are many thousands of children who have been orphaned and made vulnerable due to AIDS. Some of the international organizations whose primary mission includes supporting such children have identified the risks these children face.5 For the youngest orphans, those who lose their parents in infancy and early childhood, the risks include:
For the orphans who lose a parent or parents when they are about the age to start schooling, the risks include:
And orphans who lose their parents in adolescence also face special risks:
We aim to help these children in Southwestern Uganda by providing education, shelter, food, clothing, mentoring, treatment of common diseases (such as skin diseases and parasitic infestations) and skills training.
Focus on Education
At UAOCF, we focus many of our efforts (and most of our money) on providing children with high quality education. Why? There are many reasons. Perhaps most obviously, we want to provide children with the means to support themselves in the future. Helping the children with their education is also a means to help them with many of their basic needs. Most of our children attend boarding schools; in this way, we not only ensure a good education, but we also know that the children are safe, are receiving good nutrition, have a roof over their heads, and have stable adults in their lives to guide them. The focus on education is culturally appropriate as well: our Kabale-based Oversight Committee, made up of educators, medical professionals, and other community leaders, identified education as their highest priority for our children. And UNICEF recognizes the importance of education for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children as well, stating, “The right to education is crucial, as access to schooling helps children affected by HIV and AIDS cope with their situation and regain a sense of normalcy and stability in their lives.”2
2United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Children and AIDS: Third Stocktaking Report, 2008.
3UNICEF (April, 2009). Children, AIDS and the economic crisis: What do we know? What can we do?
5UNAIDS/UNICEF/USAID. Children on the Brink 2004: A Joint Report of New Orphan Estimates and a Framework for Action.