Swaziland’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children
Pep Bonet’s slide show tells the story of Swaziland’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children, both individual and collective stories. As you follow their stories, please hold them in your heart, send them your love and/or prayers. They don’t make the headlines in global news, so we have adopted them as part of our forgotten world series.
Swaziland has the most severe level of HIV infection in the world. The virus has killed many people creating thousands of orphans. 140,000 either head their household, caring for sisters and brothers themselves, or are in the care of grandparents. 23% of Swazi children are orphans and the number is increasing.
Not all are orphans, but there are many Vulnerable Children. Thulani, 13, is the head of his small household. He and his younger siblings Samkelo and Samkelisiw look after one another, since like many parents, their widowed mother left home to look for work in Mbabane, Swaziland’s capital.
UNICEF found an alarming rate of violence against children in a national study conducted with US Centers for Disease Control. Late in 2008, Swaziland established the nation’s first Sexual Offences Unit for children, but this cannot provide adequate protection for these orphans and vulnerable children.
As we reported in our January Magazine, in a country with a UN Millenium Goal to achieve universal primary education by 2015, these children are the ones most likely to be without education. Although their school fees are guaranteed by the Swazi Government and various charities, it frequently doesn’t reach the schools, who therefore refuse them entry. They are also turned away from schools because they aren’t wearing the uniforms, they can’t afford.
Their problems go far beyond just the lack of schooling, as the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNHCR) points out
To address the Orphans and Vulnerable Children issue holistically … we need a social policy to take care of (their) needs. Currently, government pays schools fees, but what happens to their basic need: food, shelter, bus fare, clothing?
A report by Mantoe Phakathi includes a heart wrenching quote from a local teacher:
“Besides their not having the proper school uniform, the orphans don’t have warm clothes,” said Zwane Georgina Zwane, a teacher at Motshane Central Primary School.
“It breaks my heart to see them shivering in class on a cold day.
“Many of these children also come to school on an empty stomach and it is difficult for them to concentrate in class before they get their meal at school during break time.”
Please remember these forgotten children of Swaziland. Please click on the picture above to view Pep Bonet’s pictures and stories so they are not forgotten. Please share these links so that their story reaches the wider world.
(I would not wish to recommend a charity without checks on the levels of funding that directly reach the children. Many major charities and agencies have a global pot, so there is no guarantee that it would reach Swaziland. I have asked my god-daughter who is working there to check out some good options for us. I will update you on our research.)