It is estimated that there were approximately 100,000 orphans in Swaziland in 2008. In 2010, the country’s population is 1.3 million people. More than 56,000 children in this country of over 1 million have been orphaned by AIDS (Unicef). You can not begin to imagine the devastation this is wreaking upon the family structure and economic stability of the country. The vast majority of these deaths are aids related in the middle or parenting generation.
Pregnant women reporting to birthing clinics and hospitals face mandatory HIV testing. This is, in part, due to the fact that the “anti-mother-to-child-transmission” drug is now available and free in Swaziland. Pregnant women are testing positive in over 60% of cases countrywide. Children are being born HIV positive at a rate of about 20%.
Treatment for aids, HIV prevention, education and condoms are readily available in Swaziland, all of it for free, but this has done little to dampen the ever advancing numbers of infected people. With 47% of adults HIV positive, Swaziland is either THE most infected country in the world or amongst the top five, depending upon whose statistics one wishes to use. This is a dubious distinction.
Swazi Kids involvement with these innocent victims is multifold. In fact, it is impossible to do any work in this country without involving yourself in its’ children. First, the vast majority of the children being sponsored for education in our program are either “single” or “double” orphans. This signifies whether one or both parents have died.
Our food program feeds all the students at Matjana Elementary School, most of whom are orphans or vulnerable children. In their homesteads most would receive one meal in addition to the school’s offering, at most.
Our building projects are directed specifically at OVC’s. In 2006, we raised $25,000 USD for a new home to house 8-10 OVC’s in conjunction with a fabulous local project called African Leadership Partners (see link.) We then traveled as a group of Canadian builders and helped in the construction of the new home for these children.
In 2009, we built a brand new 3 bed room home for a family of nine: 81 yr old grandmother, 5 grandchildren and 3 young great grandchildren. The middle generation, mother and father, have both died of aids. We raised funds for this structure ($10,000) and built it in conjunction with SOS Children’s Village and with a local chapter in Mbabane, SD.
Since 2007 we have become involved with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Swaziland, by way of the Carlson’s adoption of an abandoned baby girl. Through all of these dealings and new relationships, we have come to help out OVC’s in many ways.
First, we supply fresh food, meat, clothing and toys to a halfway house in Manzini that transitions children who are in need of urgent care, either abandoned children or others who are in harm’s way by remaining at home.
A gorgeous baby boy had been proposed to friends here in Canada for adoption. He became ill, vomiting, and the caregiver at the halfway house, as committed and well meaning as she is, did not have access to good medical care. She had to rely on the local government hospital. It had run out of drugs and would not admit the boy. She had no budget or transport to go and buy the drugs at a private pharmacy. As a result, although the cause of death was never firmly established, it would appear that this baby boy, in a matter of two days, vomited to death, dying from dehydration because of a lack of medicine and lack of admission to hospital for IV fluids. This was such a horrifying and tragic experience for us all, that provisions have been made for immediate transfer of any sick child and money is on credit at a first world quality private clinic. So, far we have had no other life threatening situations, but just one little HIV positive handicapped boy has required some stitches in his foot!
As a consequence of our personal interest in the care of these children without families, when we are in Swaziland for Swazi Kids business, there are always trips to check into the various care-homes and facilities harbouring these unwanted babies and children. We provide: food, medicine, toys, books, clothing, formula, diapers etc. on an as need/as able basis.
In short, relieving the plight and suffering of these gorgeous children is at the root of all that we do at Swazi Kids!!