The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

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Number of children orphaned by AIDS to increase

At least 5.7 million children in South Africa could lose one or both parents from HIV/AIDS by 2015 unless there are major interventions, the country's Medical Research Council (MRC) warned in a new report.

"Without significant changes in sexual behaviour or interventions, about 15 percent of all children under the age of 15 are expected to be orphaned by 2015," the MRC said in a policy brief.

By 2015 more than 30 percent of all children between the ages of 15 and 17 will have lost their mothers, it added.

The impact of prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes (PMTCT) on the number of orphans was minimal, despite suggestions that implementing a PMTCT would result in a substantial increase.

A PMTCT programme would only slightly increase the number of orphans, accounting for an additional 10 percent, the report noted.

The MRC called for treatment and prevention programmes aimed at mothers to help reduce the potential number of orphans.

"Although prevention programmes may not achieve short term reduction in the number of orphans, a significant reduction in the number and trend in number of orphaned children can be achieved through antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programmes to all HIV-positive individuals," the leading research body said.

Antiretroviral treatment in the public sector is available only to HIV-positive pregnant women and rape survivors. The government has refused to make ARV treatment available to people living with HIV/AIDS, saying it does not have funds or infrastructure to do this. They have also raised doubts about the efficacy and toxicity of such treatment.

Meeting the needs of orphaned children would be a massive challenge that would overwhelm formal foster and orphan care systems, and informal systems, such as older siblings and grandparents would "shoulder the biggest share of the burden of orphan care," the report said.

Various additional models of community-based orphan care initiatives had emerged in recent years, the report noted.

In some communities, child care committees have been set up to identify orphaned and vulnerable children and to safeguard their rights by assisting them to obtain child welfare grants and access to health care.

They hired surrogate mothers to look after a number of orphans in homes in the community, the report added.

The MRC's findings were drawn from research by the actuarial science centre at the University of Cape Town.

To access the report click here

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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