Daily Video

March 26, 2009

AIDS Orphans Tragic Consequence of Epidemic in South Africa

In his third report on health issues in South Africa, the NewsHour’s Ray Suarez files this troubling piece about children who lose their parents to AIDS, a deadly disease that attacks the immune system.

Orphaned children sometimes live alone and take care of themselves, like the Masoka sisters. A local school principal says she notices that children act sleepy from lack of food or act out after the death of their parents.

Many orphans have a grandmother or nanny to care for them, and the extra cost is a large burden for some caretakers. In this particular South African town, there is also a community center for very young orphans where they can go for daycare.

In some cases, high school age children must care for younger siblings.


“Health officials have begun to refer to these parentless children as ‘the lost generation.’ In South Africa, from 1995 to 2005, the number of orphans tripled. So did the number of child-headed households, like the Masokos, who on this Sunday morning headed to church, bringing along young cousins for a long walk over hills and through valleys to reach a tiny congregation gathered in prayer and song.” – Ray Suarez

“Oh, oh, sometimes they are fighting. You’ll say — sometimes when they’re fighting, ‘Where is your mother?’ We ask, ‘Where is your mother?’ ‘My mother is passed away, father passed away.’ ‘Oh.’ And then you realize that’s why there is this emotional practices that she or he is doing, fighting others.” – Happiness Zikhali, principal, Mendu Elementary School

“There’s a huge backload of cases that have completely overwhelmed the system, and the social workers aren’t able to reach them. Families are absolutely in crisis, where kids are taking on all the duties of getting their siblings fed, getting them to school, doing all that care.” – Stephen Blight, UNICEF South Africa

Warm Up Questions

1. What is AIDS?

2. Why is AIDS a problem?

3. What do you know about South Africa?

Discussion Questions

1. Should more be done to help these children? What do you think some of the challenges are in trying to care for orphans?

2. How do you think these orphans will live when they grow up?

3. Why do you think so many people have AIDS in Africa? What is being done to stop the spread of AIDS?

Additional Resources

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