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Malawi: Newsline

Orphaned by AIDS, young girl struggles to care for her family

Chisimo Banda and her family in their home in Zomba, Malawi.

17 October 2005, ZOMBA, Malawi - In the African country of Malawi, nearly half a million children have been orphaned by AIDS, with one or both of their parents having died of the disease. Chisimo Banda is one of these orphans. Both of her parents died of AIDS, and now at age 17 she is the head of the household, looking after her two younger brothers and her own infant child.

It's an especially difficult task because her both of her younger brothers are HIV-positive, and both have tuberculosis.  After her parents died, she thought that finding a husband would solve her problems...but once she gave birth, the father of the child left her.

When asked what advice she would give to other girls who have lost their parents, she says: "Concentrate on staying in school if you can while you support your family. Don't be distracted by sex.

© UNICEF Video
Chisimo spends her days cleaning, working in the fields, or tending gardens, to earn enough for her family.

A helping hand

Chisimo spends her days doing simple jobs to earn enough money to support her family. She does cleaning work, works in the fields or tends gardens. It was extremely difficult for her to make ends meet, until recently when she began getting counselling, some food, clothes and blankets from the non-governmental organization ‘Village to Village’, a UNICEF partner.

Village to Village is a community-based organization founded 11 years ago to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, and also to provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS. About 150 children live at a centre run by the organization, a third of whom are orphans. They receive food, education and basic health care.

Alfred Mandalawe, the Executive Director of Village to Village, is familiar with Chisimo's case.  "Their life is tough, the way it is -- their life is tough,” he says.

“Their main challenge is food, one. Maybe poverty, two. Maybe when somebody is sick.” Mr. Mandalawe says that orphaned children often cannot even work to support themselves, and that Village to Village is looking for ways to provide additional support in such cases.

Each day presents seemingly impossible challenges for children like Chisimo, who are missing their parents, and as a result missing out on their childhood. Children whose parents are gone have to grow up too soon to fill the shoes of adults and provide for families. But with help from organizations like Village to Village, Chisimo and others like her can overcome the challenges.


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October 2005:
UNICEF Correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on one young girl’s struggle to support her family after being orphaned by AIDS.

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