The First Ladies of Zambia and Tanzania have observed that the number of orphans living in Save Our Souls (SOS) villages in Africa could be reduced if the extended family systems were to be re-strengthened.
Mrs Thandiwe Banda and Mrs Salma Kikwete told journalists in Livingstone yesterday that once African families return to the old culture of being responsible enough to look after the children of their dead relatives, the number of homeless orphans would be reduced.
Mrs Banda observed that in the olden days, Zambians, and Africans at large, used to accommodate children of their close and distant relatives, a culture which is now faced with near extinction.
She noted that SOS villages were doing a good job in looking after homeless orphans, but said their burdens could be made lighter if biological relatives took responsibility of the orphaned children in their families and clans.
She, however, said the problem of orphans and street kids has been exacerbated by economic hardships which many African families were facing today.
Mrs Banda observed that in the wake of such economic problems, SOS villages could provide the temporary but very vital solutions and environment for the growth of children.
And Mrs Kikwete reiterated that the problem of orphans in Africa has been made worse by the ravaging HIV/AIDS pandemic.
She told journalists after touring Livingstone’s SOS Village that a reduction in the prevalence rate and existence of HIV and AIDS would drastically reduce the number of orphans in African countries.
Mrs Kikwete also encouraged the revival of extended family systems, which she said would be a lasting solution to accommodating the would-have-been homeless orphans in Africa.
“In my country, there are 39 million people. If each family got one orphaned child, there would be no orphans in the streets and SOS villages,” she said.
Mrs Kikwete, however, commended the SOS villages for improving the lives of orphaned children in African countries.
African First Ladies have a role under the Organisation for African First Ladies (OAFLA) to campaign against the spread of HIV in their countries in order to provide a solution to the fast-growing number of orphans.
Meanwhile, Livingstone SOS Village acting director, Clarence Mwami, appealed to well-wishers to assist the village in financial, social and material form to help improve the lives of the 118 children at the village.
The orphans, who are kept at the SOS villages are identified by the department of Social Welfare under the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services.