15 Million AIDS Orphans Worldwide, 12 Million in Sub-Saharan Africa, Report Says
The total number of children throughout the world who have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related causes has reached 15 million, and the number of AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa increased to about 12 million in 2003, according to a joint report by UNAIDS, UNICEF and USAID released on Tuesday at the XV International AIDS Conference, Reuters reports (Reaney, Reuters, 7/13). The joint report, titled "Children on the Brink 2004," is the fourth biennial edition and is based on surveys conducted by the three agencies (IPS/Mail & Guardian, 7/14). The report shows that the number of orphans worldwide is expected to reach 18.4 million by 2010, according to Reuters. The report also shows that:
- Although there are more older orphans than younger orphans, almost 50% of children who have lost at least one parent are younger than age 12; 12% are younger than age five (Reuters, 7/13).
- Between 2001 and 2003, more than three million children lost at least one parent to AIDS-related causes (USA Today, 7/14).
- Only 17 countries at the end of 2003 had national policies aimed at AIDS orphans and related issues.
- In five Southern African countries, 15% of all children lost one or both parents in 2003 -- most due to AIDS-related causes.
- Although Asia has lower HIV prevalence than other regions of the world, it has the highest number of orphans from all causes -- 87.6 million.
- AIDS is more likely than any other illness to lead children to lose one or more parents (Reuters, 7/13).
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, "It is a tidal wave of children who have lost one of more of their parents," adding, "It has the possibility of destabilizing societies quite dramatically." She said that "[m]uch too little" is being done to address the needs of orphans worldwide, according to Reuters. Bellamy said, "Simple things could make a big difference when it comes to AIDS orphans and could give these children an opportunity for the future" (Reuters, 7/13). The report calls for countries to improve health care and access to education and to support community and family programs that provide care for AIDS orphans, VOA News reports (Baragona, VOA News, 7/13).
Dr. Joanne Carter, legislative director for RESULTS -- an international antihunger and antipoverty group -- said, "In some ways orphans are one of the orphaned issues at this conference," adding, "It's clear that what is left in the wake of the AIDS pandemic is these kids. These kids are the futures of their society and they have been largely forgotten by the global community." U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) -- the only member of Congress attending the conference -- said that the orphan crisis is "mindboggling," adding, "The world cannot stand by and watch this occur" (Reuters, 7/13). USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health Anne Pederson said, "We must also reach out to children whose parents are sick and dying, the children in households that no longer have an income earner, the children in families that have stretched their income to care for extra children and orphans and the very many children whose greatest fear is that AIDS will take one or both of their parents" (VOA News, 7/13). UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said that Asia -- which accounts for 60% of the world's population -- could "soon be faced with a serious orphan crisis unless it takes urgent steps to stop the epidemic." He added, "To avoid having millions more children become orphaned due to AIDS, countries must do everything they can to prevent people from becoming newly infected in the first place" (UNICEF release, 7/13). Global AIDS Alliance Policy Director David Gartner said that the report is a "wake-up call that we hope will finally cause the rest of the world to address this disastrous problem" (GAA release, 7/13).