ALONE IN THE WORLD: A child at the Topsy Clinic which provides support to orphans and children. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
A surge in the number of HIV-Aids orphans has placed a huge burden on teenage children compelled to act as parents to their siblings.
Several nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in the Eastern Cape agree that “the burden of Aids orphans bearing the responsibility of being parents was far too high” and very little support was provided by government.
In the Eastern Cape, there are about 80000 child-headed households, the highest of all provinces.
Ubuntu Education Trust is an NGO that counsels, supports and trains about 400 of these children, mainly from Port Elizabeth townships, each day.
“These kids’ parents have been wiped out by the pandemic. Children as young as nine have to assume parenthood roles,” Ubuntu director Banks Gwaxula said.
“Many of these children have to leave school and find ways to support their young brothers and sisters.
“In some townships, unscrupulous relatives took possession of their houses and evicted the children, leaving them nowhere to live,” said Gwaxula.
Somerset East-based Umzi Wethu manager Paul Longe said:“These children are often working on a parental model which has not been adequately shown to them, because they are parentless.”
Reverend Nicolette Leonard of the House of Resurrection in Nelson Mandela Bay said Aids orphans often made do with barely any support from the community.
She said in order to combat the rise in the number of Aids orphans, more training should be given to community members to oversee child-headed households.
A project to train communities to deal with Aids orphans is being piloted in Port St Johns by the Child Welfare Society.
In Zwide township, Ubuntu Trust is training many of these children in creating and maintaining food gardens, so they can feed themselves.
Social development spokesman Gcobani Maswana confirmed that the number of Aids orphans had risen considerably over a decade.
“Government is offering bursaries to train more social workers to deal with the problem,” he said.