One of the things that is difficult to miss on a trip to Africa is the impact of HIV/AIDS. Here's some of the recent stats from Zambia:
Population of Zambia (July 2005 est.): 11,261,795
Estimated number of people living with HIV/AIDS: 1,100,000
Percentage of adults (ages 15-49) living with HIV/AIDS: 17%
Estimated percentage of HIV cases that occurred among women (ages 15-49): 57%
Estimated number of deaths due to AIDS during 2005: 98,000
Without exception, everyone that we met had a spouse or a child or a parent or sibling or someone else close that had died because of HIV/AIDS. When people asked me about the impact in Australia, I didn't know how to say that the impact had been so small (less than 0.1%) that many people had forgotten about it.
Perhaps the most striking sign is the prevalence of orphans. In the rural area we visited (Ngangula) a program associated with The Salvation Army was facilitating the care of around 450 orphans. There are nearly three quarters of a million children who have lost one or both of their parents in Zambia today. One of the most memorable experiences was a group of children at a school who presented a dramatic recitation about life as an orphan for our visiting team. The presentation went for about 3 minutes - it had been memorised and was spoken in perfect unison, ending with the line "Oh God, why would you take away my father and mother?"