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AIDS orphan village planned
Thursday 4 November 2004
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SOUTH AFRICA: AIDS orphan village planned

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Grandmothers often care for the orphaned children

JOHANNESBURG, 12 October (PLUSNEWS) - An organisation in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province plans to build an AIDS orphan village to take the burden off grandmothers, who are frequently the main caretakers of an ever-growing number of these children.

In the poorest parts of KZN, where 33 percent of the population is living with the virus, one elderly woman takes care of 10 children on average. Often the only household income is a basic state pension of about R700 (US $106).

Phagamisa Projects, a non-profit organisation run by community pastors, Sharmaine and George Dobson, intends to take the pressure off the 'gogo' (Zulu for grandmother) by building a village where parents dying from AIDS can find refuge with their children, and orphans will be cared for by foster mothers.

The village will consist of a number of rondavels (a circular building with a conical thatched roof), half of which will house parents who are dying of AIDS and can no longer cope with the daily routine of caring for their children, and the other rondavels will be occupied by foster parents each caring for five or six orphaned children.

Phagamisa is based in Amanzimtoti, a town on the KZN south coast. The region used to be rich in sugarcane and bananas, but since the plantations were sold in the 1990s it has become one of the poorest areas in the province, with soaring unemployment.

South Africa's National Council of Child Welfare expects about 800,000 of the country's children to be orphaned by AIDS by 2005, rising to more than 1.95 million in 2021.

Sharmaine Dobson said the village aimed to provide support to those who would otherwise end up on the street, confronted with poverty, prostitution, crime and drug abuse.

The orphan village will have a small clinic, with a medical practitioner on call 24 hours a day, where the sick receive medical treatment. Communal areas, such as the dining room, playground and recreational halls will also be used for life skills training and income-generating projects. The staff will arrange funerals and offer bereavement programmes, counselling and nutritional advice.

When parents reach an advanced stage of HIV infection, they can opt to move from their rondavel to the medical cottage, as their children will be placed with a foster parent.

"This way parent and child are still living on the same premises," Dobson said. "Otherwise the dying would have to be admitted to public hospitals, where they pass away far from their families."

The orphan village will be built between Amanzimtoti and the bordering township to "bridge the gap between rural and town population, with easy access to schools and other infrastructure," she explained.

"We want to create an environment that is as close to family and community life as possible," she added. The orphans will stay in the village until they finish their education.

Phagamisa expects the first phase of the project to begin in March 2005 - two houses for foster mothers and orphans, and two more for sick parents with children, plus communal and medical facilities. Depending on funding, more houses will be constructed.

The village will be financed solely by Phagamisa Projects.

Apart from the plan to build an orphan village, Phagamisa Projects offers a food distribution programme that delivers five to seven mt of food to the hungry every week, a medical and psychological care programme to train and educate families about HIV/AIDS, and skills development programmes.

As the number of AIDS orphans increases, it has become increasingly difficult for the Dobsons to finance their projects. Of the 400 orphaned children the couple have identified in their district, they currently have funds to care for 100. Phagamisa hopes funding organisations will offer to support its programmes.


Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
TAC takes govt to court over ARV rollout timetable,  4/Nov/04
AIDS drugs needed for HIV positive children,  3/Nov/04
Increased need for counselling services,  26/Oct/04
HIV/AIDS care centre not being fully utilised,  8/Oct/04
Using theatre to encourage HIV testing,  6/Oct/04
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS

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