High prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Zambia’s Southern Province affects thousands of families, often leaving children without the care of their parents.
Better HIV/AIDS education needed
Livingstone is the capital city of the Southern Province of Zambia and its location near the Victoria Falls makes it a popular destination for tourists. Founded as a colonial town in 1905, Livingstone was named after British explorer David Livingstone. It is situated in the Zambezi Valley, historically the home of the Tonga people; the Tonga are still the largest ethnic group in southern Zambia and northern Zimbabwe.
The rural areas surrounding the city have been blighted by severe droughts in recent years, leading to food shortages as many of the population are subsistence farmers. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a severely disruptive impact, with a great many children left without parents. There have also been cases where interplay between HIV/AIDS and Tongan cultural practices of witchcraft has led to disease transmission being blamed on an individual casting an evil spell, punishable by death. Such stories highlight the need for more extensive information campaigns on HIV/AIDS transmission and treatment in the area.
Limited healthcare and education jeopardises children's futures
Within the city, infrastructure and social services are limited. Combined with high levels of poverty, pollution and unemployment, this impacts the lives of the majority of the population. Unplanned, slum-like settlements have grown rapidly in recent years, with significant detrimental effects to the health and safety of the people living in them, especially children. Outbreaks of cholera, diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases are common in the rainy season.
In rural areas, available medical centres and hospitals in the valley are understaffed and often run out of medicines. They are also unaffordable for the majority of the population. This means many villagers rely on traditional healers, often believed to have supernatural powers, for healthcare. Relative isolation of much of the rural population of the Southern Province, combined with such difficult socio-economic conditions, contribute to low primary school enrolment rates, with little more than 50% of children starting school.
What we do in Livingstone
SOS Children has been working in Livingstone since 2008. We have expanded our community programme to help as many families as possible, particularly those impacted by HIV/AIDS. Our focus on maintaining family stability looks to ensure children grow up safe in a loving home, while alleviating hardship brought on by urban and rural poverty.
Education, healthcare and nutritional services are provided at SOS social centres, alongside guidance on income-generating skills and parenting. Psychological support and counselling are also available where necessary. Approximately 1,000 children and their families benefit from this programme, which operates in cooperation. The SOS families in the Livingstone area provide a new home for children who are no longer able to live with their families.
Our children grow up under the care of their SOS mother, surrounded by their SOS brothers and sisters. Integration with the local community begins at a young age, as children attend the SOS nursery in Livingstone with other children from the same neighbourhood. They go on to complete primary education at our SOS school, which caters for over 350 local children.
SOS Children provides ongoing care to some of Livingstone's most vulnerable children. It is one of four key locations where we provide care in Zambia, and we will be there long into the future.