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Alternatives to Orphanages Bring Hope to Africa’s Vulnerable Children

The United Nations estimates that more than 55 million African children have lost one parent and that almost 15 million of them have lost a parent to AIDS. Orphanages are often seen as a solution for these orphaned and vulnerable children. In a recent article in the New York Times, Celia Dugger suggests an alternative. Most often these children end up living with extended family members, many who are struggling to care for their own children. Pilot efforts underway in Malawi to support families that are caring for orphans have potential. Another approach not mentioned by Dugger shows promise in South Africa. A British and U.S. charity, African Solutions to African Problems, supports local women’s organizations that run community day-care centers for orphaned and vulnerable children. Children arrive at the centers each morning, and local women running the centers ensure that they receive nutritious food, healthcare, schooling, and psychological support. The women receive training in gardening, child care, and management–whatever it takes. The result: healthy and happy children and sustainable community institutions run by local women–a win-win. In some of the poorest rural areas of South Africa today, some 600 women care for 9,000 children in these centers, and the number is growing.