A modeling study updated in The Lancet shows that the number of children worldwide affected by parental death from COVID-19 would have increased dramatically from about 2.7 million in April 2021 to 5.2 million in October 2021. To put these numbers in context, researchers say this is equivalent to one child every six seconds during the six-month period.
In reality, the number of children who have lost their parents is likely to be much higher than the study estimates because of gaps in testing and reporting. The study also showed that countries with low vaccination rates had the highest number of children orphaned by Covid-19.
William Haseltine recalled the parallels with the AIDS orphan crisis and the mechanisms in place to help them, including the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
He also notes in his article that organizations such as FXB International are very involved in providing grants to start economic activities, medical care, or psychosocial support to families affected and/or infected by HIV/AIDS.**
He calls for action and support for these children and for similar programs to be developed for COVID-19 orphans before this becomes a shadow pandemic with repercussions for decades to come.
**FXB and the AIDS orphan crisis
Children’s rights are at the heart of our actions. Each of our programs is a response to the practical implementation – in the daily life of children – of their rights as defined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989.
In 1989, the year of its creation, the organization opened FXB Houses for children living with HIV or AIDS. At that time, there were no drugs available. These homes were based on the concept of Tender Loving Care: the belief that these children would have a better and longer life if they were welcomed into a family setting, surrounded by tenderness and receiving the most appropriate care. This concept had been implemented in Colombia, Brazil, USA, and Thailand.
In 1990, Albina (Founder and President Emerita) decided to expand FXB’s activities in Africa, specifically in Uganda. During her first mission there, faced with the cohorts of orphans from AIDS, war, and other causes, it quickly became clear that the FXB House concept was not adapted; something else had to be invented. In 1991, she launched FXB’s first program to help biological families or extended families in the community who were taking care of orphans. The idea, which is still the same today, was to enable them to meet their basic needs in order to raise, protect and give a dignified future to these children. Each family received the necessary means to start an income-generating activity and also benefited from support for the children’s schooling.
These were the first steps of the VillageFXB methodology.
At that time, while the entire international community was turning to micro-credit as THE solution to fight poverty on a large scale, Albina was convinced that this method was not really adapted to populations in extreme poverty. They would never be able to repay the loans.
The VillageFXB model was based on the public health paradigm taught by the late Dr. Jonathan Mann of Harvard University, who emphasized the inextricable link between health and human rights. Mann’s paradigm proved that public health can only have a lasting impact if the social and cultural factors that increase the risk of disease and prevent people from accessing their basic rights are addressed simultaneously. By adding an economic link to Mann’s approach (enabling people to start an Income Generating Activity (IGA) through training and seed capital), FXB translated Mann’s public health paradigm into a development paradigm.
The main innovation of FXB’s approach since 1991 has been the provision of seed money – instead of loans – to enable the economic strengthening of participating families in FXBVillage programs. Combined with training in business management and financial literacy, they are able to launch income-generating activities (micro-businesses) and thus gradually obtain sufficient income to meet their daily needs, raise their children, and continue to prosper after the program ends.
Simultaneously to the economic strengthening, FXB ensures that each member of the supported families has access to their basic human rights such as food security, access to education and crucial health and social information, access to adequate health services, and a healthy home and environment.
All dimensions of the VillageFXB have been designed to ensure the sustainability of impacts. Instead of creating dependency on external aid, FXB builds the capacity of participants to achieve sustainable economic and social autonomy within three years.
Since 1991, FXB has implemented nearly 200 VillageFXB Economic and Community Development programs, lifting more than 100,000 children and adults out of extreme poverty.