Zambia, in the heart of sub-Saharan Africa, has a population of 13 million. Official statistics put the HIV/AIDS infection rate as high as 25% in urban areas, though it is more unofficially estimated at 45%. The number of orphans in the country is somewhere between 800,000 and 1,300,000 with statistics indicating that at least half of the children are orphaned as a direct result of HIV/AIDS -- though it is difficult to get accurate numbers in a country that has a large rural population.
Orphans are typically cared for by relatives who absorb nieces, nephews, cousins and grandchildren into their already large households. Many of the surviving relatives are elderly grandparents or aunts and uncles. In just a few years as these guardians pass on, even greater numbers of children will be left without support.
The scenario puts a huge strain on families in a country with only 4% of its citizens in gainful employment. Because of the strain felt by these extended families, many orphaned children do not have the opportunity to go to school, much less receive the type of education that would allow them to become productive members of society.