Poverty, AIDS, war and famine have brought about a worldwide tragedy: the African orphan crisis. According to the United Nations, there are over 48 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa alone. UNICEF states that 12 million of these orphans have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS, and in 4 short years this number will skyrocket to 18.4 million. That means that by 2010 AIDS orphans will make up 15 to 20 percent of the population in some African countries. Twenty-five years after AIDS was first detected, no master plan exists to deal with the orphans. This must change – an immediate response is desperately needed!
In the most affected countries, it is proving increasingly difficult for surviving parents or their extended families to protect and care for the ever-expanding number of orphans and vulnerable children. Increasing numbers of orphans will grow up without parental care and love and will be deprived of their basic rights to shelter, food, health and education.
Orphans throughout sub-Saharan Africa – most between the ages of 10 and 16 – are among the most neglected and forgotten children on the planet. They are forced to beg for food and sleep on the streets. Some go naked for lack of clothes. Significantly at higher risk of HIV infection, emotionally vulnerable and financially desperate, orphaned children are more likely to be sexually abused and forced into exploitive situations –such as prostitution– as a means of survival. Many orphans lack access to basic formal education; the United Nations reports that 68% of rural and 32% of urban orphans are not enrolled in school. As a result of these terrible conditions, the cycle of disease, neglect and death continues…with no end in sight.
The Cradle Project was created to shed light on these staggering and horrifying realities. We hope that this project will move people to action. Without action these forgotten children will become yet another statistic; their talents and potential will never be realized.
We hope you will consider the plight of these children and contribute to The Cradle Project.