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South Africa

South Africa is located on the southern tip of the African continent and surrounds the small nation of Lesotho. A variety of beautiful landscapes fill the country, from lush forests and breathtaking beaches along the Indian Ocean to the dry, grassy savannah of the interior plateau.

  • Population: 52,385,900
  • Life Expectancy: 56 years
  • Access to Safe Water: 92%
  • School Enrollment: 90%
  • Land Mass: 470,693 sq. mi.
  • Literacy Rate: 93%
  • Under Age 5 Mortality Rate: 45/1000
  • Average Annual Income (GNI): 7,610

Facts about South Africa

Economic Development

South Africa’s rates of unemployment, poverty, and income inequality are among the highest in the world. Official unemployment is about 25 percent.


The HIV and AIDS pandemic is threatening the health of millions of South Africans. The country has about 6 million HIV-positive people — the highest in the world — and one of the highest prevalence rates among adults at more than 17 percent.

South Africa flag


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Progress in South Africa

Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors. World Vision was able to work alongside communities to accomplish the following in 2014.

  • Local churches became involved in caring for and supporting vulnerable community members through our Channels of Hope program, which equips churches to address deep-seated issues such as HIV and AIDS, as well as gender-based violence and inequity.

  • Through our children's clubs, boys and girls had fun learning about child rights and life skills, and had opportunities to voice their opinions and ideas about issues that affect their lives.

  • We helped improve children's access to books and encouraged a love of reading by establishing school and community libraries.

  • In partnership with the local Ministry of Education, we trained early childhood care and development teachers in methods to strengthen children's cognitive and social development so they will be better prepared for school.

  • Families received seeds, tools, and training to help them start vegetable gardens for nutritious food and a source of income.

  • Community members were trained in HIV prevention and advocacy to reduce the spread of HIV and prevent stigma and discrimination against people impacted by the illness.

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    World Vision in South Africa Today

    World Vision is committed to partnering with the people of South Africa to improve their lives today and to help enact sustainable solutions for the future of their children, families, and communities. World Vision’s child sponsorship program plays a vital role in this partnership, with donors from the United States sponsoring more than 13,200 girls and boys. In addition to sponsorship, World Vision operates other programs that benefit communities in South Africa. Highlights include:

    • Immunizing and screening 2,800 children for tuberculosis and HIV.
    • Bringing awareness and prevention to communities about HIV and AIDS.

    World Vision History in South Africa

    World Vision began a sponsorship program in South Africa in 1965 and opened an office in 1967. Since then, some of World Vision’s major accomplishments have included:

    • Providing children who lack adequate nutrition and education with immunizations, education, clothing, and feeding programs since the 1970s.
    • Improving water sources and offering agricultural training and supplies during the 1980s.
    • Helping people suffering from drought and implementing disaster preparedness programs in the 1990s.
    • Reducing maternal, infant, and child illnesses and deaths by improving healthcare systems and raising HIV and AIDS awareness since the beginning of the 21st century.

    Geography & People

    Geography and people

    South Africa is located on the southern tip of the African continent and surrounds the small nation of Lesotho. A variety of beautiful landscapes fill the country, from lush forests and breathtaking beaches along the Indian Ocean to the dry, grassy savannah of the interior plateau.

    Natural resources include a large variety of metals and minerals — such as gold and diamonds — and natural gas.

    The majority of the population is of African descent, with a small percentage of European descent and mixed race. South Africa has 11 official languages, including English, Afrikaans (a Dutch dialect), Zulu, and Xhosa.

    Most people profess to be Christian, although millions still follow traditional African religions. In recent years, the Christian church has played a major role in the political struggle for equality.


    South Africa has a long history of European rule and influence. The Dutch East India Company brought the first European settlers in 1652, and Great Britain took possession in 1806. The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1886 brought more Europeans to the country.

    Following the Boer War between the Dutch and British, the Union of South Africa was established in the early 1900s. Racial tension, however, overshadowed the country’s progress over the next few decades. The National Party started racial segregation, known as apartheid, in 1948.

    The separation of races lasted until 1994 when South Africa held its first multiracial elections. South Africa continues to hold democratic, multiracial elections today, despite lingering racial tensions.

    Prayer Requests for South Africa

    • Please pray for safety for girls and women and protection from sexual and gender-based violence.
    • Pray also for a decrease in the rate of new HIV infections, especially among teenage girls — the HIV infection rate among teenage girls is eight times higher than among teenage boys.