How Diseases are Affecting Orphaned Children

4 May

Blog post by Heidi G., Team Haiti 2011

There are many diseases that take the lives of parents living in poverty around the world. This causes their children to become orphans, and then these same diseases also plague the children. The most common of these are HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and diarrhea-related illnesses.

The disease most often heard about in relation to orphans is HIV/AIDS. Orphans contract AIDS several different ways. For example, there are many men with AIDS who believe sleeping with a virgin will cure them, so they prey upon young orphaned girls; other girls are forced into prostitution in order to survive. Another way orphans try to survive, and end up with AIDS in the process, is by working for and being abused by a man who promises them food and shelter in exchange. It is extremely important to get children off the streets so that they do not get preyed upon by these evil men, and so this horrible cycle can be ended.

 Tuberculosis is another disease that affects orphaned children. It is the leading cause of death for people with AIDS, killing two million people each year. Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium that is spread from person to person through droplets from a cough, sneeze, spit, laugh, or just someone speaking. Children often contract TB from adults, as most caretakers in orphanages have active TB and unknowingly spread it to the children.

Malaria, another common disease with orphans, is contracted and spread by infected mosquitoes. If left untreated, this infection is often fatal, especially in children under five years of age. Malaria kills over one million people each year, mostly children in Africa.

Diarrhea-related illnesses are another difficult issue millions of orphans must face. Contaminated food and drinking water is the main reason so many children end up with this. Every year 1.5 million people are killed by one of these illnesses.

It is heart-breaking to think that millions of people are dying from diseases that could all be prevented or treated with the right medical care. The spread of HIV/AIDS could be stopped by getting children off the streets and into homes, tuberculosis can be treated with a drug that kills the bad bacteria in the body, malaria can be treated and prevented by medication, and diarrhea-related illnesses can all be prevented with clean food and drinking water. So what then is our part in all of this? We need to follow the Lord’s commandments to care for the orphans. Taking care of their basic medical needs, I believe, is the first step. Here in the United States we have all the necessary items to treat and prevent these diseases. We can make a huge difference in these kids’ lives by supporting medical missions, going on missions ourselves, and by raising awareness of these diseases and how they are affecting orphans all over the world.

Heidi G. will be serving on the Haiti Journey 117 Team leaving May 2011.

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