There are an estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa, about half of whom have lost one or both parents to AIDS. The average adult HIV infection rate is almost 20%; in poorer regions, the rate is nearly 50%. It is estimated that, by 2015, South Africa will have 5.7 million children – a third of all children in the country – who have lost one or both parents (MRC, 2007).
Additionally, the country has inherited a legacy of violence, extreme inequality and social dislocation from the former Apartheid regime. This has created high levels of domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. The South African Police Services reports that 50,000 children are victims of crime every year, with sexual offenses constituting about 40% of these cases. Research reveals that the vast majority of such cases happen in families (UNICEF, 2010). On top of all this, in the township of Khayelitsha where we work, the unemployment rate is roughly 40%, with 55% of the population living in informal shack housing (2011 Census Report).
Close to 50% of the South African population live in rural areas. The Eastern Cape has a substantial rural component and a high HIV prevalence rate. Communities living in rural areas are the most neglected in respect of resource allocation to tackle HIV / AIDS. The informal settlement of Langbos represents the poorest of the poor among rural communities in the Eastern Cape and greater South Africa. The informal settlement has been neglected by the government and does not have access to basic amenities such as electricity, running water, or paved roads. HIV rates are estimated to be upward of 50% and potentially as high as 70%.
We believe that the best way to help these communities is by empowering local, community-driven initiatives. In doing so, we hope to connect these local efforts to a global community, and together create a better future for South Africa.