Across Africa aids is killing tens of thousands of adults between 15 and 40. Left behind are villages full of grandparents and orphans. Nobody really knows how many. The total number of aids orphans since the epidemic began is expected to hit 26 million by 2010. There are more than 12 million in Africa. With little in the way of resources these countries cope as best they can. Most orphans are left on their own, some are cared for by grandparents. The traditional extended-family support system has been stretched to the limit. Many kids are forced to work, often on the streets, to support brothers and sisters. These children are more likely to be poor, to be deprived of education, to be abused, to be neglected or stigmatized. Many of them have inherited HIV. All photos © *Gideon Mendel* Published by Blume in association with ActionAid.
*Emily Mnguni*, Enseleni Township, South Africa (Peter, 8, is cared for by his great-aunt Emily) All Peter’s family is dead. He is the only one left. His grandfather is the brother of my father... I nursed his mother until she died because no-one else was willing to look after her. I have a family of 10 to take care of. I only have a small pension. I try to take him to the clinic because he is covered in sores, but it is a long way to go and expensive to get taxis. Sometimes he cannot walk and I have to carry him on my back.
*Joshua Gatsi*, Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe Sometimes we go for three days without any food. Sometimes we do not go to school because other children will be teasing us since our uniforms are usually dirty and sometimes we are just too hungry to do school work. I am 12 years old and doing grade 6. We get some money from Grace but it is not enough. We usually go and work in people’s homes in exchange for food and clothes.
*Sola Chasala*, Copperbelt, Zambia I am 10 years old and live with my older sister Beatrice, as my mother and father are both dead... Every day I wash plates, sweep the house and go to school. I would like to live together with all my brothers and sisters but there is not enough food for us all to live in the same place. Sometimes I see them all at the weekend but I would like to see them more...
*Thembeka Sibiya*, Enseleni Township, South Africa When my parents died we stayed in the room by ourselves. We were given food by the neighbours... In times when there was no food my sisters would beg leftovers... Sometimes the wife of the Reverend would bring us food and now we have moved into her house. Before this we were living by ourselves for two years.
*Prisca Mwansa*, Ipsukilo Community School, Copperbelt, Zambia This school is free and I am a volunteer teacher. The pupils come here because they can’t manage to pay the fees for the government schools and to pay for shoes and uniforms. We ask for a minimum contribution of 1,000 Kwacha a month. Some can’t afford that but we still let them come... if not, many children would get no education at all... There are 87 children in my class of whom 47 are orphans. We teach the children about aids so that they can try to protect themselves when they get older.