Helping a Country Crippled by AIDS

Zambia Holds the Record for Orphans

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

LUSAKA, Zambia, JUNE 8, 2001 ( Amid the AIDS tragedies of the world, Zambia holds a dubious distinction.

The southern African nation holds the record for AIDS orphans — 700,000 out of a total population of 9.5 million.

One in every five adult Zambians is sick with AIDS, and 100,000 people die every year from AIDS-related complications.

To deal with the horrific epidemic, the Diocese of Ndola has implemented a home-care project.

Until a decade ago, inhabitants of the northern region of Zambia relied for their livelihood on the mining of copper, the country´s main resource. When world copper prices dropped, the mines went bankrupt and mass employment followed, leaving thousands of families without an income. Today, many live in shantytowns.

In this former copper belt, AIDS has reached alarming levels: In Ndola, 30% to 35% of the adults have it, meaning that one out of every three of them will die of AIDS-related problems within three years.

The diocese began the home-care program using a network of Christian volunteers. Mara Rossi, a doctor of the John XXIII Italian Association, has lived in Zambia for 13 years and coordinates the model program.

By 1998 the program had extended to 23 neighborhoods in seven cities, caring for 400,000 people. Today there are 750 volunteers; almost 90% of them are women.

Doctor Mara, as she is known in Zambia, is enthusiastic about the experience.

«The volunteers have persevered for years in visiting the chronically sick in their homes in their communities, in being responsible for many services, in supporting orphans, and they are as poor as their patients,» she says.

«They distribute the food rations we receive from the World Food Program, knowing that they also lack food for their children,» the doctor adds. «The diocese gives them some incentive in recognition of the enormous work they do, but it is little, as it does not have the resources.»

Rosemary, a mother of six, became a volunteer in 1993.

«When we go to visit patients we listen to them, encourage them to take their medicines, and advise them to take the HIV test,» Rosemary says. «It is not easy to find the way to make one´s closeness felt to the one who suffers. However, the satisfaction of seeing a person live his situation with more dignity makes me understand that it is right to keep going.»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation