Charity urges donor action as Aids leaves 9m African children without mothers
Nine million children in Africa will spend Mother's Day this year with no one to cherish because they have lost their mothers to Aids, according to a British charity. The figure is equivalent to the total number of children in the United Kingdom under the age of 13.
In a report published today entitled Missing On Mother's Day, the charity Save the Children says additional funds must be channeled towards millions more youngsters missing out on school in order to care for sick and dying parents.
"The Aids pandemic robs millions of children of their childhoods as well as their mothers," Jasmine Whitbread, the organisation's chief executive says.
"Children are caring for their mothers, missing school, and having to work because their mothers are too sick to look after them. Incredibly, the impact of HIV and Aids on children is still being ignored." Mother's Day this year falls on March 26, this Sunday.
Ms Whitbread added that of the 19 million women worldwide living with HIV/Aids, at least 90% are mothers, the vast majority living without adequate care and treatment.
"The more support that can be provided, the longer HIV-positive mothers can care for their children," she said. "It's time for donors - in particular the G8 nations, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria, the World Bank and the European Commission - to come forward with the resources to support children whose childhoods are being lost to HIV and Aids."
Most aid packages have concentrated on supporting children only after their parents have died. In its report, Save the Children calls for at least $6.4bn (£3.6bn) - 12% of promised Aids funding - to be targeted at children and families.
In sub-Saharan Africa among 15-24-year-olds, young women are six times more likely to be infected than men, Save The Children says. Young women are often not given necessary information on HIV and sexual activity because the subject is considered taboo.
One of the young girls the charity has been working with in Mozambique, nine-year-old Graca, listed the household chores she has to undertake every day.
"I look after my mum every day," she said. "I go and fetch water, I clean the house and wash the plates. I prepare food for her when she's sick. My mum can walk, but if she does, for two days afterwards she can't walk or go to the fields."
Henrique Candeeiro, of the local Orphans and Vulnerable Children Volunteers Committee, visits twice a week to help out. He brings food, cleans the house or fetches medicine: "The children benefit not just from the moral support but also practically because they are too young to take care of their mother."
The charity's report warns: "When a mother is sick, and after she dies, it is often the extended family and local community support the family and care for her children. With the rising numbers of affected children, communities are struggling to provide support from their own resources.
"As well as focusing on children who have been orphaned by Aids, priority must be given to children living in families with a sick or dying parent."