UNICEF and global partners define an “orphan” as a child who has lost one or both parents. The latest UNICEF report of 2008 indicates there are approximately 132 million orphans worldwide. Some of these orphans have lost one parent and others both but they all have one similarity in that they are vulnerable and in desperate need for help. It must be emphasized that the estimated 132 million orphans worldwide excludes “pseudo” orphans – children who have been abandoned by their families for various reasons. The actual number of children who live on the streets worldwide is unknown. However, many reports cite the UNICEF estimate of 100 million.
The impact of HIV/AIDS on children is a major public health concern which needs a holistic and aggressive approach. Children orphaned by AIDS are not the only ones affected by the virus since those who live in homes that have taken in orphans are also impacted. Children who live in homes that embrace orphans, may see a decline in the quality and quantity of food, education, love, nurturing and may be stigmatized. The high HIV/AIDS infection rates are accompanied by misery and devastation which include adult disability, unemployment and poverty. This explains the role reversals noted in HIV/AIDS endemic regions since children are increasingly pressured to contribute financially to the household. The streets have become the place where children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV often turn to supplement lost wages, find refuge and an escape from stigma. While on the street, children can be exposed to rape, drug abuse, child labor, including child prostitution and other forms of exploitation, making them more vulnerable to contacting HIV/AIDS.
CAGISC is committed to helping vulnerable children and orphans worldwide while providing opportunity and hope for a better future. VCOP is tailored to address pressing issues that affect the wellbeing of this population such as education, poverty, physical health and mental health. Our strategies to break the dysfunctional cycle of vulnerable children and orphans around the world are as follows: