Yenziwe, 3, doesn't understand that her mother is dying of AIDS.
"Make [a local word for 'mother'] doesn't want to go outside because it's too hot," the toddler explains, referring to Khanyisile, 34, who lies on a thin mat in the small hut that the two share with seven others. "That's why she sleeps all the time."
Khanyisile's elderly great aunt and uncle, Sarfina, 66, and Mgcibelo, 77, provide day-to-day care for her; they also own the mud-floored 13-square-foot thatched hut in which the young mother lies. Here, they look after Yenziwe and care for five other children who have lost their parents to AIDS.
But AIDS isn't the only heavy burden this family bears. Severe drought across Southern Africa this year has made the situation nearly unbearable for vulnerable families in Swaziland, like Yenziwe's.
"In my entire life, I have not seen a drought where we have absolutely nothing to harvest at the end of the season," says Mgcibelo.
Sarfina agrees, adding: "It is through God's grace that we have managed to live to this point!"
Acute malnutrition is not widespread in Swaziland yet, but conditions are such that it could be.
"Children are definitely at risk; orphans and vulnerable children, even more so," observes Dr. Irene Kiiza, a World Vision health specialist who is in Swaziland to assess the current situation. "Because of pervasive poverty, many children have been chronically undernourished. And due to this year's devastating drought, many families are surviving purely on emergency food aid and help from relatives."
Yenziwe, whose father died one year ago, hasn't lost her energy like so many hungry children do — thanks to her elderly caregivers' resourcefulness and assistance from World Vision and other groups. "I like to play outside. I like to chase the chickens," says the lively little girl.
In addition, Khanyisile has another source of strength to help her fight seemingly insurmountable odds.
In the meantime, Yenziwe has found Sarfina's Bible in the family's pile of loose belongings. She begins flipping through the pages, pretending to read. "I love to sing at church; I dance at church, too," she says, and begins to sing a praise song: "With the power of the blood, we are going to conquer..."
As she trails off, unable to remember the rest of the words, her mother picks up the song. After one stanza, though, she stops, too weak to finish.
>> Pray for Yenziwe, Khanyisile, Sarfina, Mgcibelo, and others affected by the drought, and for aid groups, like World Vision, who are responding to their needs.
>> Make Your Mark for Children. Ask Congress to swiftly reauthorize the global AIDS bill and ensure that 10 percent of all global AIDS funds be used to care for orphans and vulnerable children, as called for in the original AIDS bill.
>> Give monthly to help feed hungry children around the world. Become a Child Crisis Partner.
|Read more about the severe drought in Southern Africa and what World Vision is doing to help.|
Three Ways You Can Help
|Pray for Yenziwe, Khanyisile, Sarfina, Mgcibelo, and others affected by the drought, and for aid groups, like World Vision, who are responding to their needs.|
Make Your Mark for Children. Ask Congress to swiftly reauthorize the global AIDS bill and ensure that 10 percent of all global AIDS funds be used to care for orphans and vulnerable children, as called for in the original AIDS bill.