New York Times Examines Aid To African Orphans

The New York Times looks at how aid is distributed to children who have lost parents in Malawi and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa and examines differing views on orphanages. “In a country as desperately poor as Malawi, children placed in institutions are often seen as the lucky ones. But even as orphanages have sprung up across Africa with donations from Western churches and charities, the families who care for the vast majority of the continent’s orphans have gotten no help at all, household surveys show. Researchers now say a far better way to assist these bereft children is with simple allocations of cash – $4 to $20 a month in an experimental program under way here in Malawi – given directly to the destitute extended families who take them in,” according to the New York Times.

According to the newspaper, HIV/AIDS has “worsened” an existing “orphan crisis in Africa.” A recent U.N. estimate showed that HIV/AIDS accounted for 14.7 million of sub-Saharan Africa’s 55.3 million children who have lost at least one parent. This year, the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS, “which brought together dozens of international experts to review hundreds of studies … strongly endorsed programs that give the poorest families modest financial support, including cash transfer programs like Malawi’s. … Researchers say donors need to weed out ineffective, misconceived programs, scrutinizing those that are managed by international nongovernmental organizations or governments but reliant on volunteers in villages to do the work.”

The “cash transfer experiment” in Malawi, which is “financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and supported by UNICEF, directly helps destitute families who care for many children or have no able-bodied adult to earn a living. Children whose families got the grants were healthier, better fed and clothed and more likely to be in school than children in families that got none, according to a randomized community trial conducted by Boston University and the University of Malawi and paid for by UNICEF and the United States government.”

The article looks at orphanages and other projects intended to help African children who have lost parents (Dugger, 12/5).

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