HIV/AIDS BACKGROUND AND HISTORY

We provide hope and a future for those children who are the innocent victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

To gain a proper understanding of the gravity of the HIV/AIDS catastrophe we need only to reflect on the horrific tragedy of the 2004 tsunami in Southern Asia that claimed over 283,000 lives. As devastating as this mind-numbing event was, an equal loss of life quietly takes place every 44 days in Sub-Sahara Africa where the annual death rate caused by HIV/AIDS is currently pegged at 2.3 million or 6,300 deaths per day. This unrelenting loss of life brings in its wake an ever-increasing number of orphans and abandoned children. World health authorities estimate that by 2010, deaths by HIV/AIDS will result in 120 million orphaned and abandoned children worldwide. The bulk of these orphans will be found in the Sub-Sahara region of Africa.

Nowhere is the impact of this tragedy felt greater than in the tiny kingdom of Swaziland which has the world’s highest HIV infection rate of 38.8% and where life expectancy has dropped to 37 years. At this writing there are over 65,000 abandoned and orphaned Swazi children. In a country where there is 60% unemployment, many family units cannot support another mouth to feed and as extended family sizes grow, the older children are forced out on their own to make their way as best as they can. Currently, Swaziland has a population of under one million, therefore, over 6% of the population are children from 0 to 14 years of age without parents to care for them. In the remote regions of the country there are “wild children” living in the bush and off the land without shelter, clothing or food.

The organizations that Overseas Resource Link assists in Swaziland are offering effective and comprehensive programs responding to the needs of HIV/AIDS orphaned and abandoned children in that country. These are independent non-government organizations – Africans helping Africans. They provide the children under their care with great hope for a bright and productive future. And yet these programs meet the needs of less than 1% of those children currently at risk. Their efforts need to be duplicated and rapidly expanded while there is still time to reach as many of these at-risk children as possible. The rapid development and expansion of such programs will have a dramatic effect on the entire nation of Swaziland and help pull this fragile culture back from the brink of extinction.

Due to Swaziland’s strategic location and the statistical magnitude of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in this tiny country, the crisis there has gained global visibility. The success of the ongoing work in Swaziland will act as an incentive to encourage other sub-Sahara African countries to adopt similar programs of HIV/AIDS orphan care. That is why the work in this tiny nation is so crucial.

It will take more than raising money. The need will only be met though the commitment of individuals offering their talents, training and physical abilities. In addition to long and short term mentors and teachers, there is a continuing need for volunteers in the fields of medicine, building trades, administration and agriculture to name but a few. Only through the active involvement of hundreds of volunteers, will there be enough hands, and hearts to embrace the sea of children currently uncared for and without hope. It is the purpose of Overseas Resource Link to inform, network, and mobilize individuals and existing faith-based and civic organizations in the United States and other countries of the world in supplying the manpower and financial resources needed to accomplish the task at hand.

How best can you help? All contributions given to ORL and earmarked for the work in Swaziland are forwarded to help the work in that country. Overseas Resource Link is a federally recognized 501(C)3 non-profit organization and all contributions are tax deductible. If you are interested in traveling to Swaziland to make an investment of your time, training and talents, we would love to hear from you.


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