The Republic of South Africa is the southernmost country on the African continent. Its total population amounts to approximately 59 million and is a multi-ethnic society, encompassing a wide variety of languages, cultures and religions. South Africa’s capital city is Pretoria. Although South Africa has the continent's biggest economy, inequality is a challenge in the country and the lives of many of its citizens are still marked by high levels of poverty. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS continues to present a major public health concern. Many adults, as well as children, live with the virus. Other children lose their parents due to the disease.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in South Africa since 1984.
South Africa is a country characterised by tremendous contrast: while thousands of people live in extreme poverty, others reside in luxury housing, located in "gated communities". Despite South Africa's status as an upper middle-income country, over half of its population still lives in poverty. Although poverty figures have dropped over recent years, the marginalization of tens of thousands of people who find themselves on the bottom steps of the socioeconomic ladder is evident. Furthermore, income inequality has been on the rise.
Thousands of children cannot go to school due to financial constraints. In many cases, children have to work to secure their families' income. One of the many reasons for this is that parents fall ill with HIV/AIDS and can no longer provide adequately for their families. However, the country has made significant progress in access to primary education. The primary school enrolment rate in South Africa is 99%. On the other hand, the remaining 1% still represent a large number of children who have no chance of a better future.
South Africa has one of the highest numbers of HIV-positive citizens in the world. Although the government has implemented a number of prevention programmes, approximately 7.5 million South Africans between the ages of 15 and 49 are living with HIV/AIDS, making the disease one of the country's greatest health challenges. In many cases, children are directly affected by the virus. In other cases, they are indirectly affected as they lose parental care due to the disease. This means that they often cannot go to school or escape the vicious circle of poverty.