Thursday, November 19, 2009

South Africa’s child-parents

“Many thousands of South African children ive in homes with no parents, largely as a result of HIV/Aids. Life is desperate for the children left at the head of their families.”

Nokubonga Oaba was left with her four younger siblings at the age of ten when both of her parents died from TB in 2002. For a while she and her siblings lived with her grandmother but were left completely alone after she passed away in 2004. Now Nokubonga is 17 and they have an addition to their little family, her one week old baby. Sadly, her story is not unique in South Africa. About 150,000 children are raised by other children after their parents die. Many of these deaths are from Aids and the sicknesses related to it. In South Africa there are higher rates of Aids than anywhere else in the world. The Government gives these Aids orphans grants but they are not enough. Reverend Mthimkulu Msikinya, head of the Lusikisiki Child Abuse Resource Center, says, “Diseases such as HIV/Aids have had an enormous impact in the number of children who are orphaned and left having to fend for themselves. We help where we can but in the end a grant can only do so much.”

Nokubonga and her little family have no steady income. When their grandmother was alive, they were able to survive on her little pension. Now they live on handouts from a government grant. She receives 650 Rand ($87) but it is not enough the money runs out in the middle of the month. On many occasions they go to bed with hunger pains. When they run out of food, Nokubonga goes from neighbor to neighbor and begs. Sometimes they give her a little something and sometimes they don’t. The father of Nokubonga’s baby does not help because he is also poor and is still in school. Nokubonga’s sister, Zodwa, sends them a bit of money whenever she is able to get a job. In the meantime the little family survives on grants, food parcels, and old clothes donated to them by the community.

The statistics from the South African Institute of Race Relations are:
In 2002 there were 118,000 children living without parents; by mid-2007 there were 148,000.
Some 146,000 of the children are black.
Eastern Cape Province has the second largest number of child-headed homes in the country.

This story makes me appreciate my childhood and the fact that I got to enjoy it. How many Americans are left with four siblings to raise and feed? Our Social Services may not be perfect but they are there and will take care of a family like Nokubonga’s as best as they can! I just wish South African orphans had the same opportunity as us Americans.


  1. Very sad story and I don't know how the children even survive at all. No health care no vaccines, no adequate nutrition, no medicine for illness. How they even make it out of infancy is amazing. How the women even make it through pregnancy in the first place amazes me with out prenatal care. Thanks for posting.

  2. This story breaks my heart, especially since the holidays are aroound the corner. Ive really enjoyed learning about the culture that you live in. Are you taking English Comp 102 next semester with Mrs. Chism? I am. and also I will be keeping my blog going.