South Africa to Boost Care for OVCs

04/05/2012 – The South African government will take time over the next three years to improve care for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) under the age of five. More than 1.9 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses in South Africa.

Thousands of South African orphans may soon have the care providers they've been missing out on. The Department of Social Services is aiming to spend the next three years recruiting 10,000  caregivers for orphaned children, said the departmental Minister, Bathabile Dlamini, earlier this week.

Child and youth workers will soon be responsible for the care of children under four-and-a-half years old. The early years of a child’s life are known to be some of the most crucial to their future. After these years, the Department of Basic Education will takeover responsibilities as service provider for the orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).

Extended family and the general public in the country were encouraged to consider foster care and adoption as well. Together these measures can help ease the burden of economic vulnerability and social stigma faced by orphans, child-headed households and abandoned children.

In all, 1.4 million Rand (about CAN$177,940) will be spent on these services as well as the development of early childhood education.

Last year’s annual report published by the national office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), found some very interesting statistics regarding family structure as it relates to OVCs.

“Only one in three children lives with both biological parents. Overall, one out of every five children is an orphan, though there are differences between provinces,” said the report.

According to BuaNews, South Africa's Government Communication and Information System, Deputy Minister Bongo Ntuli gave an emotional testimony, saying, “there is no dustbin for orphans.” She urged people to help orphans as she herself was helped in her younger years.

South Africa is in the middle of what some call an “orphan crisis.” Many children have lost one or both or their parents to an AIDS-related illness. About 17.8 per cent of the South African population is infected with HIV, contributing to higher numbers of orphaned children.

Globally, there are about 16.6 million children orphaned by AIDS. About 1.9 million of these orphans live in South Africa, making up more than half of the country’s total orphan population of 3.4 million.

According to UNICEF in South Africa’s website, “The burden of caring for orphans and vulnerable children deprived of parental care has created a crisis in the alternative care system: the number of unregistered childcare institutions is thought to have mushroomed, and social workers are struggling to meet the demand for foster care placements.”