The devastation of AIDS is creating a generation of orphans that face life alone in Swaziland.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic has affected almost every family in the Kingdom of Swaziland. The Country has the highest percentage of HIV-positive people in the world, with nearly 36% of those between the ages of 15 and 49 living with HIV.
Aids has contributed to reducing the average life expectancy in Swaziland from 58 to 32 years. (National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS-NERCHA, 2007. Swaziland).
Of extreme concern is the issue of orphans in a Country of just more than one million people an estimated 220,000 people are living with HIV. More than 70,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS. According to UNADIS, the number of orphans will continue to grow at an alarming rate with a projection of 120,000 orphans in the Country by 2010. (UNAIDS: 2006 Report on the global AIDS epidemic).
Now the older generation must take care of their children’s children, particularly the grandmothers or Gogos, as they are called in Swaziland, bear the brunt of this burden. How best to care for these growing number of children has become a huge challenge for communities, humanitarian organizations and the government of Swaziland. (UNICEF: Enhanced protection for children affected by AIDS. A companion paper to the Framework for the protection, Care and support of orphans and vulnerable children, March 2007)
Perhaps one of the most challenging situations is that of child headed household. As parents and their relatives die, children of all ages are forced to care for their young siblings.