By Frederick Philander
“Every child has a basic right to be protected and cared for. On the other hand, the biggest privilege is to show caring and compassion to children. What does compassion mean? It means not mean looking away when someone else is suffering. I believe that this is what we are demonstrating today.”
This is the view of Dr Christina Swart-Opperman, of an AIDS orphan foundation bearing her name. She was last week speaking at the Windhoek Gymnasium Private School as part of a Warmer Winter Initiative handing out blankets to the needy.
“According to UNICEF, the global HIV/AIDS pandemic has emerged as one of the most serious threats to the survival and well-being of children world-wide, specifically the growing numbers of orphans. This could be considered as the most tragic consequence of AIDS. Deaths from HIV/Aids make more than 6 000 children orphans every day worldwide,” Swart-Opperman said.
In Africa, there are currently 12 million children orphaned by AIDS that is continuously rising and will reach 20 million by 2010. In Namibia, 75% of all orphans are AIDS orphans and this will remain so until 2021.
In her opinion, orphans face many challenges such as more children are becoming heads of households, with as many as 8-11 members per household; grandmothers (who are often emotionally and physically handicapped) are care-givers to sometimes up to 16 children; and staying alive becomes a daily struggle with only one meal per day.
Sometimes there is no food at all; school and uniforms are considered an unaffordable luxury; destitute children tend to turn to prostitution to ensure a livelihood or are abused by family members; children are traumatized by the loss of parents and experience as caregivers of the dying parents.
“My Foundation Trust and Windhoek Gymnasium Private School have identified the Dr Frans Aupa Indongo Primary School as an institution that could benefit from joint assistance in 2007. There are 315 students at this particular school, who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. This is the first Winter Warmer Initiative for the school and the project is just going from strength to strength,” she said..
The trust, launched in February 2003, has as its vision to contribute towards social reform in Namibia. Specific objectives are to uplift and improve the quality of life of AIDS orphans by participating specifically in programmes dealing in education, care and feeding schemes, and prevention and psycho-social support.
The trust also cooperates with other role players in this regard.