Orphans in Zimbabwe

The landlocked country of Zimbabwe in southern Africa is known for its diverse wildlife and sprawling, gorgeous landscapes. What many might not be aware of is the crisis taking place within the country. Young children and those under the age of 18 are the sole providers of their households because of circumstances causing them to become orphans. The 10 facts about orphans in Zimbabwe listed below demonstrate the severity and seriousness of this issue taking place in this diverse and culturally rich country.

10 Facts about Orphans in Zimbabwe

  1. HIV/AIDS contributes largely to the number of orphans.
    In Zimbabwe, there are more than 1.3 million orphaned children, and HIV/AIDS is the culprit. According to the National AIDS Council (NAC), over 50,000 households are headed by children under the age of 18 who have lost parents to this deadly infectious
    disease.
  2. Children are born with HIV/AIDS.
    Adults and parents are not the only victims of HIV/AIDS. This infection can also be passed from mother to child by way of pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding. In fact, 180,000 children were born with it. As a result, these children are highly vulnerable, and often face social prejudice.
  3. Orphans can go to next of kin, but that is not always an option.
    Traditionally, those orphaned in Zimbabwe are taken in by kin living in surrounding areas. This kin often involve aunts, uncles and grandparents of the orphaned children. Because of the destruction of families that HIV/AIDS causes, this network system is under severe pressure. It is predicted that between the years of 2020 to 2030, orphaned Zimbabwean children will not only have to deal with the loss of their parents but also will not have support from grandparents or other family members.
  4. Many run away after becoming orphaned.
    In an Evaluation Report completed by UNICEF in 2001 concerning orphans and other vulnerable children in Zimbabwe, it was reported that children dealing with AIDS in some form of their life were highly mobile. This means that nearly 50 percent of children had
    left their homes after the death of their parents. They headed for rural areas to ease hardships involved with living in the urban areas of Zimbabwe. Many children in this study ran away, never to be heard from again.
  5. Their education is poor.
    Education of those orphaned in Zimbabwe is lacking and in dire need of improvement. Adequate education in Zimbabwe for orphaned children is not easily accessible. Orphaned children, especially young adolescent girls, are often unable to regularly attend school. These children are missing out on key skills needed to be a functioning member of society, as education is considered a “social vaccine.”
  6. Poverty is certain.
    In addition to the loss of parents, many orphaned children struggle with extreme poverty. Poverty is destructive to all children of Zimbabwe and the world, but it is especially devastating to orphans under the age of 18 who have become the head of their household. They are exposed to a multitude of risks. These risks include poor health, poor educational opportunities, delays in development and a lack of emotional or social support.
  7. Many are not given a birth certificate which prevents them from accessing education and health care.
    In Zimbabwe, a high amount of children never receive a birth certificate. As a result, it becomes close to impossible to secure a spot in any school. This reduces their chances of adequate and sustainable education. In addition to this, never receiving a birth certificate can make seeking medical attention, especially for orphans living with HIV/AIDS, extremely challenging.
  8. Pathways offers services specifically for orphans in Zimbabwe.
    In July of 2018, USAID announced the launch of Pathways. The program was designed to provide nutrition, health and psychosocial services for orphaned and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. This five year, the $35 million program will provide support and offer services to 250,000-HIV/AIDS infected orphans and 59,500 households of Zimbabwe.
  9. There are programs dedicated to keeping families together.
    SOS Children’s Villages in Zimbabwe has been one of the leading organizations offering support for orphans since 1983. Goals and the work of SOS Children’s Villages are working to support and strengthen families by providing necessities and ensuring that they stay together. If families are unable to remain together, SOS Children’s Villages can place vulnerable children into SOS families. Additionally, SOS Children’s Villages in Zimbabwe also works by way of providing education and advocacy.
  10. CAMFED is helping young orphan girls gain educational opportunities.
    CAMFED Zimbabwe, an organization launched in 1993, has been working tirelessly to increase educational opportunities for orphaned female adolescents in Zimbabwe. By providing scholarships for poor girls in rural areas, building hostels to shorten long distances girls must walk to school (walks are dangerous and tedious for young girls), chances for academic success for young women in Zimbabwe is improved and attainable. Nearly 104,000 young, orphaned girls have been given secondary scholarships by CAMFED Zimbabwe.

Improvements Are Still Needed

Overall, the 10 facts about orphans in Zimbabwe listed above are important in understanding the severity and prevalence of this issue in Zimbabwe. Though many vulnerable children have been supported by a variety of organizations dedicated to orphans in Zimbabwe, a significant amount of work is still needed to truly relieve the burden that orphans in this country must take on.

– Anna Giffels
Photo: Flickr