Exclusive report: South Africa

Save the Children's Amy Burns reports exclusively for Marie Claire from South Africa

Save the Children’s Amy Burns reports exclusively for Marie Claire from South Africa…

I’m lucky enough to have an amazing job working for Save the Children. My job involves making the public aware of the work we do, and why it’s so important.  In less than a month, the eyes of the world will be focusing on South Africa, I recently visited the country, and some of the children we help there, to see what daily life is like for people who are struggling to survive there.

26 April, 2010
I’ve spent the majority of my time in Free State, a rural and poverty stricken state about four hours SW of Jo’burg. The huge problems in this area revolve around poverty unemployment and AIDS. Death is a big business here. One of the few careers that still generates a regular income is undertaking. Driving through the rundown, dusty town later that day, I began to notice the incongruous sleek, shiny funeral parlour windows standing out against the surrounding run down shacks.

30 April, 2010
Today I visited an elderly couple who are raising their HIV+, seven-year-old grandchild, whose parents both died of AIDS.  This is not uncommon; the country has the largest HIV-positive population in the world and has over a million AIDs orphans. What is unusual is that the couple address the fact their daughter died of AIDS, and that their granddaughter is HIV positive. There is huge stigma and shame attached to the virus and those that contract it are often ostracised in the local community. Very few admit their loved ones have died this way, citing flu, or headaches as the killer instead.  

Amy and Patricia Nkala - Save the Children - Marie Claire10 May, 2010
Today, I travel north to a small, dusty boarder town called Musina. It is filled with a fluid migrant community, including many unaccompanied children, that have entered the country via the crocodile-infested Limpopo river to escape the political, social and economic unrest in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Save the Children funds refuge centres here for the hundreds of vulnerable children that risk their lives attempting to enter South Africa every day.

If those travelling manage to survive the crocodile-infested waters, they often come face to face with the armed gangs, known as the Magu Magu, who lurk on the banks of the river in wait for the hundreds of vulnerable children and women who cross the river alone every day. The Magu Magu will traffic, rape and steal the belongings of the refugees, often pretending they only want to help first.

Amy and Patricia Nkala - Save the Children - Marie Claire

Despite the strong currents, the crocodiles, the risk of rape, abuse and exploitation, people come across in their hundreds. And according to 32-year-old Anna Mundanga, who works in the Save the Children refuge centre, the numbers are increasing. Anna tells me she has registered twice as many boys as she normally would in the centre this month, and she believes this is down to the World Cup. Anna explains that many unaccompanied kids are currently taking on an even greater risk to get here in time for the World Cup.  Many will be looking for work around the games, others will be hoping to meet their football heroes.

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