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IRIN News/ Profiles NGO's Work With AIDS Orphans, Elderly Caretakers in Southern Sudan

April 19, 2006

IRIN News/ on Monday profiled the Southern Sudan Older People's Organization and its work in assisting the elderly guardians of young people who have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related causes. The organization -- which in 2005 was given a $36,000 grant by the British annual fund-raising event Comic Relief -- supports 44 AIDS orphans in the southern Sudanese town of Juba. SSOPO pays for the children's school fees and uniforms and gives "modest" grants to their caretakers to help them set up small businesses. According to SSOPO, the hardest challenge is encouraging AIDS orphans to stay in school. In addition, the group worries that female orphans will increase their risk of contracting HIV by turning to commercial sex work (IRIN News/, 4/17). Sex work among low-income women is increasing as traders and truck drivers from Uganda travel through southern Sudan (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/12). The group this month plans to begin offering AIDS orphans vocational training to provide education and the opportunity for financial independence. "Many orphans are forced to fend for themselves, even if a relative takes custody of them," Asunta Dowki, a counselor who works with AIDS orphans, said, adding, "[T]hey say to us, '[N]ow our parents are dead, we must earn money to survive.'" (IRIN News/, 4/17).

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