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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
Growing up fast in Zambia
The number of orphans is increasing in Zambia  as Aids cases soar.
Aids is leading to an increasing number of orphans
By our reporter in Kitwe

A typical day for Mubanga, a 12 year-old boy, starts at about 0500.

His parents died of Aids three years ago and he has been head of the house in Kitwe's Zamtan township since then.

He is the sole provider for his two younger brothers and three sisters.

After a small breakfast he walks about 2km to the bush to help collect fuel for charcoal.

In return, he is offered a bag of charcoal which he can resell to raise money.

Growing up fast

His mother was the first to die in 1997 and his father died the following year.

Zambian orphans face an uncertain future
Zambian orphans face an uncertain future
Mubanga then found himself at the age of 10 having to become an adult overnight to fend for his family.

''If I leave work to go to a community school, then my brothers and sisters would die of hunger. I know education is important but then how do I reconcile the two,'' he asked.

They had to move out of the family house as the father had sold it on to another person before he died.

With the help of members of the community, they built a one-roomed mud hut in which they live.

The six children share one double-bed mattress and use the same room as a kitchen and sitting room.

Food

When this reporter visited them, she saw some big tin pots but they were empty.

They told me they had had no meal for the last two days and were dependent on sympathetic neighbours to give them a little food, like sweet potatoes, to keep them alive.

Sadly homes without parents are becoming more and more typical in Zambia.

Every day parents are dying as a result of HIV/Aids - which is wiping out the older generations and leaving Aids orphans to fend for themselves.

President Fredrick Chiluba recently disclosed that there were more than 700,000 orphans in the country.

The president has called for urgent social action to help solve the crisis.

''The future of children begins with parents, but they are increasingly being prevented from growing up in families due to factors such as Aids-related deaths,'' he said.

See also:

26 Jun 00 | Africa
At the heart of an epidemic
29 Oct 99 | Crossing Continents
Zambia's orphaned generation
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