Up to 2 million children will AIDS orphans in Malawi by the end of 2002, according to official estimates.
The number of AIDS orphans in Malawi is calculated at between 850,000 and 1.2 million but it is expected to reach 2 million by December 31st, 2002. AIDS orphans are the children of parents who have died from this disease and in many cases, the children themselves are infected.
Around 365,000 Malawians have died of AIDS since 1985. Life expectancy in this country of 10.6 million people has decreased from 52 to 39 years of age in the last ten years. The Malawian health ministry states that by 2005, between 25 and 50% of workers in urban areas will have died from AIDS.
President Bakili Muluzi and his vice-president have both adopted AIDS orphans and are coordinating a campaign to make the people change its sexual behaviour. The main problem is poverty. 65% of the population lives below the poverty line and the average salary per annum is around 200 USD. Many families cannot afford to send their children to secondary school and the majority of the people do not understand the relationship between sexual activity and AIDS.
Catherine Phiri, herself HIV positive and an AIDS widow, leads 2,650 volunteers in a programme to help the AIDS orphans. The Salima AIDS Support Organization (SASO) has received a grant of 30,000 USD to run the programme, but the money runs out at the end of the year. After that, SASO will depend entirely on the impoverished local population to make donations.
SASO works in 58,000 households in Salima. It performs public awareness campaigns, arranges families for the orphans to live in, education programmes and food. Ms. Phiri declares that due to under-funding “We can only bring the kids together once a week for a meal…Apart from that, there is very little more we can do because we do not have the money”.
With thousands of millions of dollars-worth of military equipment pounding the Hindu Kush, stories such as this indicate just how unbalanced the world has become.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru