Zambia: We Are Supporting Children Who Have Lost Their Parents Due to HIV/AIDS

Life Expectancy of 46 Years - 690,000 Orphans Estimated to Have Lost Their Parents

Mika YAMAI of AAR JAPAN’s Zambia office with students of an anti-HIV/AIDS club in Chipapa.

Republic of Zambia is located in southern Africa with a population of 13,300,000 people and an area that is twice as big as that of Japan. The number of HIV- positive people is approximately 980,000 (2009 UNAIDS statistics) and the national life expectancy is 46 years old (2010 United Nations Population Fund statistics). Approximately 13.5% of adults (15 to 49 years old) are estimated to be HIV-positive and the population of such people in their prime has remarkably decreased. There are about 690,000 so-called "AIDS orphans", children who have lost one or both of their parents due to HIV/AIDS and are either under the care of their grandparents, uncles, and aunts, or live with their brothers and sisters. The situation is so serious that there are homes where children have assumed the roles of the household heads.

The Zambian government formulated the “2006-2010 National Health Strategic Planning" in 2005 and measures to combat HIV/AIDS have been strengthened through activities such as providing free supplies of antiretroviral drugs (ARV) that delay the onset of AIDS. As a result, the number of deaths caused by AIDS-related diseases has decreased in recent years; however, in spite of the large population of potentially HIV-positive people, very few are still unaware that they are HIV-positive and activities to promote HIV/AIDS awareness on a grass-roots level are needed, such as recommending individuals to take a HIV antibody test and so forth.

Guardians and Local Residents Themselves Must Find Ways to Finance Children's Education

In the effort to support the AIDS orphans in Zambia, AAR JAPAN has been supporting their guardians in carrying out income-generating activities for creating funds like the children’s school tuition. The idea originated in 2004 in the Ng’ombe area of the capital city of Lusaka, where many people with low socioeconomic status live. While carrying out activities to support the provision of school supplies, tuition funds, food items, as well as psychiatric assistance, the guardians realized that education is very important but costly. Although they are grateful for AAR JAPAN’s support, they were not comfortable of the idea of relying on AAR JAPAN forever. In response to their sentiments, AAR JAPAN launched income-generating activities including milling and poultry farming in order to help improve the guardians’ earnings.  The main target was for the guardians to find ways on their own to financially support their children attend school. Therefore, we arranged for the representatives of the guardians and those who lived in the suburbs of Ng’ombe to engage themselves in the management of the project.

Douglas (left) was able to buy a new textbook with the money he earned from milling.
In regards to the milling activity, the people earn profit from grinding and selling the maze (corn) that is supplied by their neighbors. Although sales were slow at the beginning, the introduction of a peeling machine in 2009 increased sales. The peeled maze skin was also sellable, which contributed to the increase in income. However, during the rainy season (December to April when maze becomes rare and its prices soar), sales drop to half of that of the dry season (August to October when maze can be obtained relatively cheaply). To deal with such unstable sales conditions, we carried out assessment activities to explore the consumption trends of maze, and we also negotiated with the suburban farmers for the direct supply of maze. As a result, maze has been directly bought in at a low price from the farmers since 2010, and sales have gradually increased. Douglas, a 16 year-old boy, who often helps with the milling, was able to buy a new science textbook with the money he made from milling.

The manager of the project and the children help cut up the chickens one by one.

As for the poultry farming project, we raise chicks that are a couple of days old for six weeks and sell them after they have grown. At the beginning, we were troubled by the high number of deaths of the chicks, but the quality of management has been improved by the project managers, and now the survival rate as well as the sizes of the chicks has stabilized. Moreover, market research was carried out and advertisement strategies were devised last year. We have been trying to sell the chickens at the big market which opens on Thursday and Sunday every week, and seeking new large-scale customers through companies and restaurants. As it has been rather difficult to find such customers, it will be necessary to work with patience in the long term. On the other hand, we have also been outreaching to individual customers steadily. We appeal to our buyers that the chickens are chemical free, delicious, and the sales profit leads to supporting the children’s schooling.

"I want to become a lawyer in the future and help those who are in need.”

One of our beneficiaries, 13 year-old Kosam Phili aspires to become a lawyer. Pictured on the right is Hiromi KAWANO from AAR JAPAN’s Tokyo Headquarters office.

At the moment, we are supporting the schooling of 54 children through this project. Although we have not been able to cover the tuition of all 54 children with the profits obtained, we aim to gradually increase the profit every year through the income-generating strategies mentioned above.

This past September, Hiromi KAWANO of AAR JAPAN’s Tokyo Headquarters office and I interviewed 10 of the children whom we support. Having lost their parents, they were in various circumstances with some living with their grandparents, uncles or aunts, while others were together with one of their parents or their siblings. Nevertheless, one common factor was that every child is studying very hard in order to fulfill his or her future dream. They said that they normally study at home for about 1.5 to 2 hours after school each day. The most popular aspiration among the children is to become a lawyer, followed by an accountant, a journalist, and an elementary school teacher. One of these children is 13-year-old boy Kosam Phili Lungu, who has 4 brothers and is in Grade 6 at an elementary school in Ng’ombe. As his father is sick, he goes to school after taking care of daily chores such as drawing water and dishwashing. He told us, "I would like to become a lawyer in the future so that I could work for social justice and help people who are in trouble."

In order to fulfill such children's dreams, AAR JAPAN will continue to carry out our activities.

Local Zambian Staff Members Who Are in Charge of the Projects

Local staff members at the AAR JAPAN Zambia office – from the back row left, Sharon, Given, Angela, Fraser, Kebbie; from the front row right, Catherine, Mulenga, and Mika YAMAI.

The ones to actually visit the project sites and make arrangements with the supporters and local organizations are the local staff members of AAR JAPAN Zambia office, who I work together with everyday. They immediately got used to my Japanese-accented English and have acted as my interpreters. When a group of inspectors came, I was once told, "You have such a reliable group of local staff."  

There are 73 different tribes coexisting in Zambia and the local staff members of the office are from these various tribes. After the nation’s independence was achieved 47 years ago, interethnic collaboration policy was placed under the slogan of "One Zambia, One Nation", and since then, there has been no distinctive racial confrontation. However, regardless of their tribal identities, our staff members often makes small quarrels. Whenever I come across such a scene, I would just smile at them because the points of their arguments are usually rather silly. They themselves are very serious though.

In any case, the fact is that our project would not be possible without them. In spite of their family issues and financial problems, they are always doing their best. As crucial members of our team, I would like for them to take on the responsibilities in making significant changes in Zambia.

Mika YAMAI, AAR JAPAN Lusaka office, Zambia
YAMAI served at the Lusaka, Zambia office from November 2009 until November 2011. After graduating from university, first worked for an airline company. Then completed a degree in public health at a graduate school in the United States before joining AAR JAPAN. (Born in Hyogo Prefecture)