Volume 8, Issue 4
Children of AIDS: Africa’s Orphan Crisis (Second Edition). Emma Guest. Durban: University of Natal Press, 2003. 176 pp.
Emma Guest describes her book on children of Aids in Africa as ‘un-apologetically anecdotal’. Before her arrival on the continent, she was a marriage guidance counselor in
This second edition calls our attention to a number of discouraging aspects of the current fight against AIDS in
The book opens with a chapter on Zambian orphans under the care of grandmothers who have very little resources to take care of themselves. The Zambian Public Assistance program is supposed to provide support to these grandmothers. The organization is cash strapped, and therefore mostly ineffective. The second chapter is the story of a woman who took under her care six orphans who lost their parents to AIDS. Child fostering is popular in
Through skillful use of case studies, the author examines the role of state agencies, community level initiatives and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in providing solutions to the orphan crisis in Africa. These orphans will face high level mortality, morbidity and malnourishment as they grow up. As families collapse, agents of primary socialization disappear. As a result, crime and lawlessness are likely to enervate the strength of civil societies.
The crisis deepens as state agencies and community level initiatives fail to co- ordinate their efforts. As a result, a large bulk of orphan care is left to a few committed individuals in isolated communities and NGOs. Social workers employed by state agencies are constrained by rules and regulations which appear to be culturally insensitive to the African concept of child fostering. Consequently, social workers have limited ability to advocate for an expanded model which accommodates unrelated foster children within the African context of child fostering. The author focuses on “stigma” as a major problem limiting the solutions to the orphan crisis. She believes that politicians can play a major role in alleviating stigma through skillful use of mass media. The suggestions she offers are limited. The problem of stigma has to be resolved through programs and policies at the micro and macro levels.
In general the book is well written. It provides a journalistic account of the social, human and economic miseries suffered by African orphans. It alerts us to the formidable task of rebuilding Africa as millions of orphans born to HIV infected parents come of age. The book is a compassionate account of the orphan crisis in Africa to those who want to become familiar with issues of AIDS and orphans in Africa. In addition, this book also offers a critical view of selected initiatives of orphan care, all of which are small, diverse and vulnerable. The author provides very few suggestions on programs and policies to care for African orphans. I recommend this book without reservation to undergraduates, social workers, and any one interested in understanding the African orphan crisis.
Vijayan K. Pillai