Africa's Suffering Children
Orphans - A New Challenge in Africa
Writing in the New York Times (April 6th 2004), Emmanuel Dongala,
the African novelist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, speaking of a
Rwandan Genocide survivor wrote "Then she casually told me she had no family
left - no father, mother, siblings, grandparents. No one. My African mind was
unable to imagine someone in the world without a single family member".
Go to any village in Africa, and you will find dozens of little children
playing with one another in the dust. Looking over them in the shade will be the
grandmothers or other elders, ready to intervene when things get out of hand. If
a child is hurt in the squabbles that inevitably arise, they run to soothing
arms of their grandmothers.
But war, AIDS, famine have brought to Africa an entirely new concept,
children with no family members, no blood relatives, no extended family members.
No elders to care for them, they are lost and bereft in a cruel world, and no
one seems to care.
But Fr. Alphonse in Kabgayi, Rwanda and Fr. Piet in Uganda cared. They took
in the children left alone by war, clothed them, fed them, housed them, cared
for them. Without them the children would have had no one. They were the lucky
ones, but there are thousands like them without any Fr. Alphonse or Fr Piet.
With thousands dying daily,
how long can they survive?
Each day in Sub-Saharan Africa, thousands of young children are dying. The
saddest part about this incredible crisis is that many of these deaths are
Low food supplies, unclean and unsafe water -- accompanied by diseases such
as malaria, pneumonia, measles, whooping cough, tetanus and tuberculosis are
claiming the lives of African children in record numbers. In most cases, death
from these illnesses is preventable -- and even curable.
Immunization, nutrition, clean water and simple, basic health-care monitoring
and treatment could save the lives of thousands of children every day.
"Africa has the highest infant mortality rates in the world!" explains Fr.
Richard Roy. Fr. Roy lived as a missionary for more than 20 years before
returning to head the Missionaries of Africa's development office in Washington,
DC. "Out of 1,000 children born in various African countries this
year, nearly 120 of them will die before their first birthday. It is a horrible
Most African children die from malnutrition, diarrhea, and childhood ailments
that might not be considered deadly in other parts of the world. In nearly every
case, vaccines exist that could prevent the contraction of these illnesses.
"The children of Africa are suffering more than any group ever has in the
history of the modern world." Fr. Roy continues. "People ask me how long things
will continue this way. In many ways, I think the answer to that is mostly up to
us. Most of the world has an abundance of food, clean water and medicine -- I am
praying that those of us who can -- will reach out to these children who are
suffering . . . to send them the help they need to survive."
The Missionaries of Africa are currently serving in more than 20 countries
throughout Africa. Financial donations are urgently needed to help provide basic
care for children -- especially those living in the sub-Saharan region.
"Twenty percent of Africa's children will die before the age of five,"
a recently released report stated. The statement was part of a series of reports
that demonstrate the horrible conditions currently facing children throughout
"Every day 30,000 children die from a combination of disease-
infested water and malnutrition," the report continued. "Water-borne diseases
are claiming one child every three seconds. These diseases are the major killers
of small children in Africa."
In addition to those lives being claimed for lack of clean water and
malnutrition, diseases such as AIDS, malaria, pneumonia and typhoid fever are
killing record numbers as well.
"As a consequence of the AIDS epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa," one report
stated, "it is estimated that more than 18 million people have died to date, of
which over 3 million were children. Additionally, more than 25 million adults
are currently infected which will result in the continued increase in the number
of orphaned children. To date, more than 15 million children have already been
orphaned as a result of the epidemic. Another 1 million children are currently
infected with the disease."
"We've been appealing for emergency help for the men, women and children in
Africa because of the tragic situation that exists there," Fr. Richard Roy
explains. "When reports like these are published, people begin to realize just
how serious the crisis in Africa is."
"To say that one child out of every five (20%) will die before the age of
five is heartbreaking -- and a real human tragedy!" he continues. "Imagine if
out of 20 little children you know -- four were going to die before age five . .
. how desperately would you want to do something to stop this from happening!
Well, that is what's going on in Africa -- it's just that we don't know these
little boys and girls personally."
The Missionaries of Africa are currently raising funds to be used for disease
prevention among African children. Once collected, these funds are used by
missionaries working in the field to help prevent diseases such as AIDS,
malaria, typhoid, pneumonia and measles as well as to provide food, clothing,
clean water and education to those most in need. Anyone interested in
contributing should send their check to the organization's Washington, DC,