U.S. Aid Targets Rwanda's AIDS Orphans
May 29, 2003
The plight of AIDS orphans is one target of new US legislation allocating $15 billion for Rwanda and 13 other African and Caribbean countries to support the fight against the disease. The program is intended to provide care for 10 million AIDS orphans and HIV-infected individuals, prevent 7 million new infections -- or 60 percent of the projected 12 million new infections in the target countries -- and pay for AIDS drugs for about 2 million people infected with HIV.Adapted from:
Pascazia Mukamana, 16-year-old acting as a parent to two siblings, is among an estimated 1 million children -- or more than 12 percent of Rwanda's population of 8.2 million -- orphaned by AIDS and a 1994 genocide, said Felicite Mukantambara, an official with UNICEF. The small central African nation "has the highest percentage of orphans per population in the world," said Anne Morris, country director of CARE International. Some 325,000 of the orphans live in homes headed by children, mainly girls. "It puts children in very vulnerable positions when they don't have adults in the household -- there's no protection, no guidance and no role models," Morris said.
However, AIDS orphans are finding creative ways of coping. Orphaned households identify adults in their neighborhood who take on the role of mentor for several of them. A mentor, traditionally known as a "rundabana," monitors the welfare of the orphans and keeps track of their health and progress in school. "This is like being a mother to multiple households," said Florence Mukangameje, 38, a mother of two and a rundabana for eight households. "It's voluntary work that requires plenty of sacrifices."
The rundabana organize orphans into self-help groups to repair homes, prepare fields for planting and pool funds for moneymaking projects. The self-help groups also play a key role in reforming unruly orphans and giving moral support to new orphans who despair, Mukamana said. "It is quite remarkable because there is no group of children who have been as traumatized en masse in modern history as these," Morris said. "They witnessed a genocide, saw their parents dying slowly of AIDS and now must fend for themselves."
05.28.03; Rodrique Ngowi
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.