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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Aids agencies 'failing grandparents'
Grandparents and grandchild
Many Thai grandparents now look after orphans
Aid organisations have been urged to do more to help grandparents who are looking after Aids orphans.

HelpAge International, a global network of not-for-profit organisations, has accused aid agencies of ignoring their needs.

When people grow old they expect their adult children to look after them. But then Aids breaks that circle

Usa Khiewrord, HelpAge International
A report by the charity Christian Aid published last year suggested more than 12 million children - equivalent to the UK's entire child population - had been orphaned by Aids.

In Thailand, two thirds of all those with HIV-related illness are nursed at home by parents in their 60s and 70s and the children who have been orphaned are cared for by their grandparents.

Usa Khiewrord, HelpAge International's programme co-ordinator in the Asia-Pacific region, said older people were not receiving proper support because the organisations did not recognise their role.

"When I meet with these non-governmental organisations and I ask them 'Why don't you include older people in your programme?', they say they are simply not aware of the impact, so they don't do anything."

Usa Khiewrord
Ms Khiewrord urged NGOs to do more
HelpAge International established a pilot project aimed at helping these grandparents. It now hopes other groups will adopt the model and also take steps to help grandparents.

Ms Khiewrord said: "In Thailand, it's a tradition that when people grow old they expect their adult children to look after them.

"But then Aids breaks that circle. Adult children die young and they then leave the grandchildren for older people to look after.

"And then they have to look after themselves when they usually expect to receive that from adult children. So it's very difficult for older people whose children die of Aids."

She added: "HIV/Aids in older people has become one of the key priorities of HelpAge International and in Asia-Pacific we try to advocate for the inclusion of older people in HIV/Aids mainstream programmes."

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Duangkaew Songkaew, a 71-year-old man in Chang Mei, is involved in a local scheme to help grandparents.

"In my village there are many older people who have to face the same situation. I go to visit families or family members who have Aids and I try to help them however I can," he said.

Duangkaew Songkaew
Mr Songkaew lost three family members to Aids
Four years ago, Mr Songkaew lost his son, daughter-in-law and grandson because of Aids.

He and his wife provided care to all three right up until the time they died.

"My son got infected with HIV/Aids and he passed it on to his wife and also my grandchild.

"At first my daughter-in-law died, then five months after, my son, and then seven months after, my grandchild. All three of them died of Aids."

He added: "I think maybe it is because God punishes me because I have usually a stubborn personality and maybe somehow damaged my own family."

This story is featured in the radio programme Health Matters on the BBC World Service.

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See also:

05 Apr 02 | Europe
Elderly 'bear brunt of Aids care'
26 Jun 01 | Africa
Caring for the Aids orphans
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