Houses For Orphans
– Johan Viljoen, March 2012
There are well over a million children in South Africa orphaned by Aids. Their plight is appalling. With nobody to provide for them, they lack even the most basic essentials – food to eat, water to drink and a roof over their heads. At the end of 2010, SACBC Aids Office entered into partnership with Homeplan – a Dutch NGO that builds houses for the poorest of the poor. As a pilot project, 10 houses were built for orphan-headed households in the Ndumo area, and 10 at Kosi Bay (both in Northern KwaZulu/Natal).
The pilot project was so successful, that the program was expanded. The assistance of other donors was enlisted. Since the completion of the pilot project, a further 38 houses have been built to date – in Hlabisa (Mkhanyakude District, KZN), Pomeroy (Msinga District, KZN), Phuthaditjhaba (Free State), Mthatha (Eastern Cape), Nkomazi District (Mpumalanga) and Mopanie District (Limpopo). Particularly exciting is the partnership with Homeplan in Swaziland, where 8 houses are currently under construction, with a further 12 to follow.
Mkhulu Dlamini is 80 years old. He lives with his wife, two children and 3 grandchildren, in a tiny hut, made of sticks, with a thatch roof. When it rains, the hut floods inside. When it doesn’t rain, there are snakes that enter. The seven of them have no source of income. The children are severely malnourished. They appear listless. They are covered with scabies and rashes. Mkhulu himself cannot walk – he suffers from gangrene, and has no skin on the heels of both feet – when he takes off the bandages, the heel bone is exposed.
Their new house is almost finished. Mkhulu says that, previously, he wanted to die because of the difficulties the family is going through. He saw himself as a burden to the family because of his sickness and life as a beggar. But now he no longer wishes to die because he wants to occupy his new house before dying.
Nantwayini [the mother] said that she had been praying to God that one day her family would have a proper structure, but she was losing hope due to the death of her children. She believes that God has answered her prayers. She is happy that the family will now enjoy peaceful sleep without fear of snakes, lightning, mosquitoes, frogs and thugs.
Situated where South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province borders Mozambique and Swaziland, the Nkomazi District has always been one of the poorest parts of the country. Large numbers of Mozambicans fled there as refugees during that country’s civil war. Today they live in a twilight zone – not recognised by the South African authorities. Many have passed away, leaving thousands of orphans behind (the Catholic Church cares for almost 2 000 orphans in the area).
Unable to access any form of social assistance from the South African government because they have no legal status, they live lives of desperation and misery.
Mrs Ngomane lives in the Nkomazi village of Vlakbult. She herself came as a refugee from Mozambique. She is looking after four orphans – children of her deceased sister. She has a birth defect – she was born with only one arm, and is therefore unable to work to support the orphans. None of them can get disability or orphan grants, because they are “illegal aliens”.
She is delighted with her new house. With the 2500 litre rain water tank, she will even be able to plant a vegetable garden, thereby for the first time being able to provide for herself and the four orphans.