With so many South Africans struck down by AIDS, a generation of children is watching their parents die and being forced to form new family units. In his third report from South Africa, Ray Suarez explores the plight of AIDS orphans.
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Next, Ray Suarez has the last of our three global health reports from South Africa this week, the devastating impact of AIDS on children.
It's early on a Sunday morning. A young girl checks her pot of corn while her sister looks on. The girls do a few quick chores, get dressed for church, wash up, and buff up their shoes.
Nothing unusual about any of that. The scene is repeated throughout the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and around the world, with one difference: The 12-year old twins, Batkithi and Bonisani Masoko, and their 10-year-old sister, Xolisile, are on their own. Their parents both died of AIDS.
The sisters are among 15 million children around the world who've lost one or both parents to AIDS. And most are in southern Africa.
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.
Lay Minister Qoshile Mvelase knows many families in the area with children left orphaned by AIDS, some not well cared for, and said her congregation prays for the Masoko sisters.
PASTOR QOSHILE MVELASE (through translator):
We realize that, when we look at them, their lives are so difficult. I feel they are all alone and not happy.