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June 10, 2021
Parents play an essential role in a child's life. They're responsible for satisfying their kids' psychosocial and physiological needs while giving them a good education and preparing them for life's challenges. Without parents to do their part, children become orphans, facing many problems and distress.
According to UNICEF, there are 140 million orphans worldwide, and 5,700 more children become orphans every day. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, home to multiple countries with high orphan rates, and a primary cause of this issue is natural disasters. In the last 20 years, almost 750,000 people have died because of this issue, leaving hundreds of thousands of children without parental support.
However, other reasons for the orphan crisis include illness or disease outbreaks, HIV/AIDS, poor health infrastructure, and wars and conflict. While researchers have covered these contributing factors in-depth, few people have spotlighted the problems faced by orphans and vulnerable children, even though there are many. Even worse, the hardships that these kids experience range from emotional to physical suffering.
The emotional problems orphans and vulnerable children face
No one enjoys losing a loved one. When someone close to your heart dies, it impacts you. Sometimes, it's easier to deal with this impact when you're an adult and have developed more emotionally and mentally. However, when you're a child, the loss of a loved one is extremely hard to process, especially when that loved one is a parent.
One research study examined orphans in South Africa and suggests that the death of a parent gives rise to emotional distress. When a child becomes an orphan they're more susceptible to experiencing the following psychological problems:
The worst part about this situation is that these issues can become long-term obstacles that orphans face. It's not easy to manage the death of a parent, and when orphans don't get the help they need to process their emotions, it can be challenging for them to encounter peace and a good quality of life.
The physical, financial, and educational woes
Emotional distress isn't the only problem faced by orphans and vulnerable children. When kids don't have anyone to look after them, they walk into a situation where they're totally dependent on themselves. And when you're a child, it's impossible to care for yourself in the way that you need.
This unfortunate reality can be seen in Eswatini, Africa, where more than 200,000 orphans make up the 1.1 million people living in the kingdom. Because of various factors like HIV/AIDS, many parents die or abandon their kids, leaving their children to face four primary obstacles.
Even with parents, many Swazi children don't get the amount of food they need to survive. Frequent droughts and poverty contribute to this issue. Swazi adults rely heavily on farming, but when that's not providing anything and job opportunities are few, it's almost impossible to put food on the table.
While discouraging, this situation is even worse for orphans. Without parents who can find consistent meals, Swazi children often go hungry and malnourished. And when this problem persists for too long, it can lead to severe illness and even death.
In Eswatini, children's primary education is free, a gift that Swazi parents appreciate since many of them live in poverty. Secondary school, on the other hand, is not free. Parents have to finance this next step if they want their children to continue their education.
But for orphans in Eswatini, continuing their education isn't possible. Without parents who can pay for their schooling and books, they have no way of attending classes, and it's not hard to guess what happens when someone doesn't have a good education. More often than not, they find themselves in a cycle of poverty that's hard to escape and that continues even when they have children.
Ranking 138th of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index, Eswatini is home to many Swazis who are living in poverty. Specifically, research indicates that 58.9 percent of the country's rural population lives below the poverty line, meaning they live on less than US$1.90 per day.
However, when it comes to orphans and vulnerable children in Eswatini, they have no financial resources to live on. Most Swazi children are abandoned when they're newborns. They can't provide anything for themselves, and even the orphans who are older can't meet their own needs.
Without steady financial provision, orphans and vulnerable children in Eswatini live hungry, homeless, and thirsty. And as expected, this livelihood can quickly lead to death if the problem persists.
Parents are supposed to protect their children. They're supposed to give them guidance to set them up for success and keep them out of harm's way. Unfortunately, though, violence against children is a serious problem in Eswatini.
For a research study, interviewers visited 1,900 households and focused on females between the ages of 13 and 24 years old. Based on the findings, about 1 in 3 females experienced some form of sexual violence as a child; 1 in 4 females encountered physical violence as a child; and approximately 3 in 10 females dealt with emotional abuse as a child.
Most of the participants in this study were not orphans. However, if females who have their parents encounter such a high rate of violence, one can only assume how much worse it can be for orphans who have no protection.
How to help orphans and vulnerable children
The problems that orphans and vulnerable children face are not easy for anyone to handle. These kids are still learning how to navigate the world, and when they have to do it on their own, it doesn't typically lead to successful outcomes.
That's why Khutsala Artisans is committed to helping orphans and vulnerable children. In Eswatini specifically, Khutsala Artisans is taking steps to reduce the number of orphans by giving all of its profits to Heart for Africa, a faith-based humanitarian organization that's home to hundreds of children that have been abandoned.
At Heart for Africa, orphans and vulnerable children find a home and family who cares for them, loves them, and continually provides for them. The organization's children's homes are places where boys and girls lose the "orphan" label they received when their parents passed away or left them.
At Heart for Africa, kids get the opportunity to be kids. They get to go to school, play with toys, make friends, and have their basic needs met. And if you want to help Heart for Africa continue its mission in supporting these children and opening its arms to orphans and vulnerable kids in Eswatini, please consider shopping at Khutsala Artisans.
By purchasing handmade jewelry and home decor, you'll contribute to the profits that Khutsala Artisans give to Heart for Africa, and you'll also empower the Swazi employees at Khutsala Artisans, who are committed to caring for their children and the vulnerable kids in their communities.
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