AIDS orphans in Rwanda. The lost generation.
Worldwide, there are an estimated 16 million AIDS orphans.
About 130.000 of them live in Rwanda.
According to statistics of UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO, the term ‘aids orphan’ is used for a child whose mother has died due to AIDS before the child’s 15th birthday, regardless of whether the father is still alive. As a result of this definition, it’s estimated that 80% of all AIDS orphans still have one living parent, mostly a sick father.
Families are affected long before a parent dies. From the time adults first fall sick they may not be able to work, leading to significant losses of income and even further pressure by increased health-care costs and, eventually, by funeral costs.
Because of these financial pressures, many children whose families are affected by HIV/AIDS are forced to drop out of school in order to forego necessities such as food and clothing, or to provide medical care for their families. Others are being sent away from their home.
All of the children are exposed to high levels of stigma and psychosocial stress, and they face an increased risk of engaging in hazardous labour and of being otherwise exploited.
The recourse for many orphans is streetlife, making them suffer from poor health, trauma and psychological distress, which makes them even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
AIDS orphans working to support their families or themselves do so at the expense not only of their education but also of rest, play and recreation. They lose out on the opportunity to participate in their community, in their religion and in cultural activities and sports.
The loss of these rights means that, in effect, this ‘lost generation’ orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS misses out on its childhood.