BY CARA SCHAYER
The devastation caused by the African AIDS epidemic is leaving grandparents to raise a generation of orphaned children, Ugandan author Roil Wangila said Wednesday.
Wangila, who is director of the hospital advocacy group Ark Foundation for Africa, co-wrote the organization’s new book titled “Africa, AIDS Orphans and Their Grandparents: Benefits and Preventable Hidden Dangers” to document the crisis faced by elders raising AIDS orphans.
Among the many hardships grandparents face is an inability to provide an education and adequate nutrition for their grandchildren.
The grandparents’ age and frailty make them a last resort as caregivers, but there is often no alternative, said Ayub Kaddu, a Ugandan orphan who was raised by his grandparents.
Kaddu, who is studying early childhood development, said the government is doing little to provide financial or educational assistance for grandparents raising children.
“These people don’t receive anything,” he said. “Sometimes, they even pray for rain, and they don’t get it.”
Kaddu said grandparents are revered in African communities and could help teach younger generations about safe-sex practices if they were exposed to the correct information.
“If you educate elders, you educate the community,” he said.
Watching her mother raise nine orphaned grandchildren, Wangila said there is a need for immediate intervention in African communities. She said the Ark Foundation is on a mission to raise awareness and provide assistance for this neglected population.
“This is the beginning of an aggressive grass-roots campaign that we will not leave one stone unturned,” she said.
With the assistance of organizations such as the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Global Fund for Children, the Ark Foundation intends to train social workers to focus on everyday issues such as the growing crisis facing the elderly.
Grandparents cannot carry the responsibility and expense of raising AIDS orphans without financial assistance, said Victoria Dunning, director of grants for the Global Fund for Children.
“We have put so much burden on these women and these communities,” she said. “We cannot break their back. We cannot ask them to shoulder this burden without support.”