Living to Die

Vulture stalking a child

Vulture stalking a child

Being made an orphan in Africa at a young age makes it almost impossible for children to grow to adulthood.

Many people in Africa are forced to live with the constant fear of disease, war, starvation, abandonment and death. With these conditions, it is very common for children’s parents to die. According to the United Nations, there are over 48 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa alone (The Cradle Project). These children are thus forced to fight for survival against the same conditions that caused their parent’s death.

Many children become orphans at a young age because their parents die from starvation. If parents are the primary means of obtaining food in a family, then when they die, their children are left without a way of getting food. Authors of Food Crops in a Changing Climate, Martin Parry, Cynthia Rosenzweig and Matthew Livermor, argue that the implications of climate change on food production leads to risk of hunger. The authors state that the early stages of global warming are causing crops to reach their maximum temperature tolerance. There is also a decrease of rainfall in regions of high risk such as Africa. Therefore, the crops cannot grow in high temperatures and dry lands.

The authors explain how researchers predicted the growth of crops as influenced by factors such as climate, soils and management practices. Researchers used crop models to estimate how climate change and increased levels of carbon dioxide alter yields of work crops. The results of the experiment demonstrate that in these conditions, the growing period of the crops is shortened, the water availability decreases and poor vernalization causes reduced yields.

Pedro Sanchez’s Soil Fertility and Hunger in Africa illustrates how the poor soil in Africa is to blame for the lack of crops and thus being the cause of hunger. Sanchez states, “About 180 million Africans—up 100% since 1970—do not have access to sufficient food to lead healthy and productive lives.” He argues that depletion of soil fertility, weeds, pests, and diseases are the reason for low food production in Africa.

African AIDS orphans

African AIDS orphans

Many children become orphans at a young age because their parents die from HIV/AIDS. If parents die from HIV/AIDS, then it is possible that they could have passed the disease onto their children or the stigmas around this disease could have a negative impact on the children. The risk of death and likelihood that a child will lose one or both parents to the disease is very high.

In 2010, around 1.2 million people died from AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. There are an estimated 6.5 million children who are orphaned by AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Plus, since the beginning of the epidemic, 14.8 million children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS (“HIV and AIDS in Africa”). UNICEF states that 12 million orphans have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS, and in four short years this number will skyrocket to 18.4 million (The Cradle Project).

The following video demonstrates the lifestyle of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Many children become orphans at a young age because their parents die from effects of war. If parents die from effects of war, the children are left alone without adult protection in a violent environment in which they are forced to fend for themselves. Clifton C. Crais explains in his book, Poverty, War, and Violence in South Africa, how the violence from war with European forces caused destruction of property and crops. The war violence led to displacement, poverty, famine, sickness, premature death and a world of inequality and vulnerability (Crais).

According to the BBC News article, Millions Dead in Sudan Civil War, the ongoing civil war in Sudan has caused the deaths of nearly two million people since 1983. The fight for control of southern and central Sudan killed one in five of the southern Sudanese population. More than 70,000 people died in the first 6 months. These deaths are caused by warfare, war-induced famine or direct government or rebel policies.

Furthermore, Gerard Prunier’s Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe aims to explain how the Rwandan genocide led to the slaughtering of 400,000 people (Prunier). Therefore, it is likely that parents will die as a result of war violence, thus leaving their children orphaned.

Orphans throughout sub-Saharan Africa are among the most neglected and forgotten children on the planet. When parents die due to famine, HIV/AIDS and war violence, children become orphans and are forced to fight for survival without guidance and care. As a result, these children are at higher risk of HIV infection, emotionally vulnerable and are financially desperate. Therefore, with these conditions, it is very unlikely that these children will grow to adulthood. The cycle of death continues with no end in sight.


AIDS Orphans in Africa. Youtube. Novartis Foundation, 14 Feb. 2009. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <;.

Carter, Kevin. Vulture Stalking a Child. 1993. Photograph. Sudan.

Crais, Clifton C. Poverty, War, and Violence in South Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

“HIV and AIDS in Africa.” Avert. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <;.

Martin Parry, Cynthia Rosenzweig and Matthew Livermor
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Vol. 360, No. 1463, Food Crops in a Changing Climate (Nov. 29, 2005), pp. 2125-2138

“Millions Dead in Sudan Civil War.” BBC News. BBC, 11 Dec. 1998. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <;.

Orphans in Africa. Digital image. Africare. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <;.

Prunier, Gerard. Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the making of a continental catastrophe. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Sanchez, Pedro. ”Soil Fertility and Hunger in Africa”. Science Mag. Vol. 295. 15 March 2002.

Sheahen, Laura, and Sara Fajardo. “East Africa Famine.” Interview. Blog Critics. N.p., 13 Aug. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <;.

The Cradle Project. Web. <;.

Thurow, Roger. “Agricultural Development Key to Ending Hunger in Africa”. World Watch. Nourishing the Planet, 2011. Web. 23 October. 2012.

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