PART 2 OF AN EXCLUSIVE 3-PART SERIES; READ PART 1 HERE
'It had gotten so painful,' Dr. Brad Guffey says of Richard's oozing leg wound. By the time the boy was 15 'he was pretty much taking care of himself.'
'Richard was changing this massive bandage full of pus twice a day on his own,' he recalls of the stoic orphan, wincing at the memory of a scrawny kid treating his own drug-resistant infection for four years with homemade gauze.
The crippled, skinny teen made first aid supplies out of mutton cloth and strips of chitenge, the fabric Zambian women like his mother would wrap around themselves like a sarong during the day.
Richard's father is dead, a casualty of HIV. His mother may be, too. He hasn't seen her since before his clear-headed memories began.
AIDS took an entire generation of men and women from Zambia, an African nation of 17 million people. One million of them are orphans, left behind to make it on their own.
First World governments use money like a blunt instrument, and billions of dollars have saved millions of lives. But it takes the joyful elbow grease of smaller groups to accomplish the finer needle-work with the survivors.
A global AIDS pandemic killed millions in Africa, home to two-thirds of the world's people who are living with HIV; in the nation of Zambia the HIV virus and its aftereffects wiped out a generation of mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and godparents, leaving an orphan crisis for the developed world to face – or ignore
Children are raised by children in the slums of Lusaka, Zambia, where countless school-age boys and girls are malnourished and get no classroom education; UNICEF says 800,000 kids in Zambia fit that description but charity efforts are making a dent in the crisis
Mary, a child in the Chainda slum of Lusaka, dances in jittery circles near charcoal sellers; she is one of hundreds of thousands of orphans who live in the sub-Saharan African country's capital city (DailyMail.com is not publishing the surnames of any children in this report)
Walking through the Chainda compound, the difference between children who are in school and those who aren't is as plain as night and day; a U.S. charity called Family Legacy is educating 15,000 boys and girls in schools it built all over Lusaka's poorest neighborhoods
Family Legacy Chief Development Officer Holly Scurry (top center) is the public face of her charity's outreach on the ground in Lusaka, and children in the shantytowns know her as 'Aunt Holly'
TWENTY-THREE CHILDREN A DAY
The United States has poured more than $80 billion into the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment a country has ever made to fight a single disease. More than $3 billion of the total has been earmarked for Zambia.
The biggest expense is antiretroviral drugs; the pills have raised Zambia's life expectancy in the last 15 years from 45 to 62; more than 1.6 million people here have received the free medication.
At least 1.2 million of them are still alive, living with HIV. But by the time President George W. Bush pushed the global program through Congress in 2003, the virus had already killed millions, leaving a demographic disaster in its wake.
Buying food in Lusaka's Buseko Market 'compound' is a simple cash deal trading Kwacha – money – for rice (pictured) or 'nshima,' a thick porridge made from finely ground corn meal; children here might eat meat once or twice a month
Zambia saw about 59,000 new cases of HIV transmission last year, making it 29 times as common as in the United States and 52 times the United Kingdom's rate. From 2016 to 2018 more Zambians died of AIDS than Americans died fighting in the Vietnam War.
Fifty-seven succumb every day. Twenty-three are children, the main reason Zambia's proportion of orphans is only the world's sixth-highest. If more survived, the largest population in the world of children without mothers and fathers might be here. All of the top 25 countries on that list are in Africa.
Not all orphans are wholly abandoned. UNICEF defines an orphan as 'a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death.'
There are hundreds of thousands of 'double orphans,' but also 'single orphans,' whose remaining parents in isolated villages often send them to the cities, alone or in groups.
There are AIDS orphans and war orphans; native orphans and those brought to Zambia by surviving family who flee the Congo's wars or Zimbabwe's economic death-spiral.
Zambia, for all its Third-World-ness, is a relative oasis with a stable government. Its currency's value has risen more than 40-fold since a low point in 1993, when AIDS was at its most overwhelming. It boasts the world's second most productive copper mines. Elections, not coups, determine its national leaders.
But the government employs three-quarters of the employed population of Lusaka, the capital city, and regularly runs out of money to pay them. This year it will spend more than 90 per cent of its income servicing foreign debts, even after creditors forgave billions 15 years ago.
Asian businesses extended credit with ruinous terms. A Chinese company ceased construction of the new air terminal when the local government defaulted on its payments. Meanwhile, other Chinese firms build the roads and a Bank of China billboard greets every airplane that lands in Lusaka. South Koreans start and stop the work of building bridges.
Zambia expelled an International Monetary Fund representative last year rather than face a financial reckoning.
The rate of urbanization in this former British protectorate is the ninth-highest in the world. The villagers come seeking nonexistent jobs and escaping illnesses that can devastate remote areas where no one is vaccinated, and where the nearest Cipro might be eight hours away over bumpy dirt, if you know someone with a Land Rover.
Quarantines in mud huts are usually the only defense and it's seldom enough. Government health agencies don't know what kills 80 per cent of the lost. Death certificates are rare in Lusaka and unheard of in the backcountry.
Dr. Brad Guffey is Zambia's only pediatric infectious disease specialist and works full-time with Family Legacy; his brightly colored 'wellness center,' half medical facility and half counseling rooms, opened last year and dispenses 1,500 HIV pills every week; Guffey tells horror stories about children who come to him emaciated and diseased, and about those he couldn't help after rabid dogs attacked them and they were left to die in the streets
Zambia is a land-locked African country whose Third-World-ness hides its status as an oasis for Congolese fleeing war and Zimbabweans escaping economic collapse; but because AIDS condemned a generation of adults, Zambia's median age is under 18, and 23 children still die from AIDS-related illnesses every day
More children than adults are thought to live in Lusaka's Buseko Market 'compound,' the preferred euphemism for shantytowns; those who can sleep under plastic tarps between a stone wall and a sewage ditch, with homemade gangplanks the only way across
Zambia's teetering economy is highly dependent on foreign investment; a Bank of China billboard (left) greets planes at Lusaka's airport; Zambia is spending 90 per cent of its income to service foreign debts, often leaving it unable to pay the civil servants who make up three-quarters of Lusaka's employed workforce
THE LEAST, THE LAST, THE LOST
Holly Scurry is the public face of Family Legacy, a U.S. Christian organization that keeps 26 schools in Lusaka's slums running on a shoestring. The group's staff, almost entirely Zambian, educate 15,000 children and house nearly 800 more in 64 purpose-built homes, half for girls and half for boys, on 200 acres of land.
The once homeless orphans who live in those houses trade dirt for bunk beds. They learn to cook and wash their clothes. Insistent house mothers stun them with the alien-sounding claim that their bodies are their own, not community resources. They memorize 'body safety rules.'
Nearly all of them suffer from complex emotional traumas. Most were physically and sexually abused before age 13. Many live with HIV.
We've seen children admitted with golf ball-size tuberculomas in their brains. Like five years old, 15 pounds, never walked, never talked. Never, ever went to a clinic. I've seen rabies. I've seen one dog kill 11 kids. One dog. Eleven kids died.
— Dr. Brad Guffey
'When we first get them they don't know how to use a toilet. They stand on the toilets, so we go through broken toilet seats all the time,' says Scurry, 37. 'They don't know how to brush their teeth, so they're literally eating the toothpaste. They've never seen a fork. But God does his best work with people who are broken.'
Family Legacy's seven-week 'Camp Life' program matches 700 Americans with 7,000 Zambian children each June and July in a mass-triage for the young and needy.
The charity buses 1,000 children in every day for a Vacation Bible School-like program heavy on evangelical preaching – already the bread and butter of a 96 per cent Christian country – but supplemented with danger-free play time, psychological counseling and nutritious food whose absence has stunted their growth.
Worship services are raucous affairs, equal parts rock concert and revival tent for the least, the last, and the lost. The kids know the songs. They dance. They sing at the top of their lungs. The exit music is a Jock Jams mix tape.
One young African preacher booms a lesson culled from the Gospel of John, a story about Jesus of Nazareth healing a man who was born blind.
When we first get them they don't know how to use a toilet. They stand on the toilets, so we go through broken toilet seats all the time. They don't know how to brush their teeth, so they're literally eating the toothpaste. They've never seen a fork.
— Holly Scurry
'The Bible is full of stories where God uses suffering for good,' he says on a June Sunday, first in native Nyanja and then in English.
For some of the children, their week of camp meals include more protein than they will eat the rest of the summer. They're placed in schools by the hundreds. The full-time homes await those who reveal life-threatening traumas to trained counselors.
Almost no one has a father to see them off when morning buses arrives in the slums.
'There's a dad problem in this country in a big way,' says Family Legacy CEO Mario Zandstra, 62. 'It's literally a nation of children raised by children.'
Some child advocates object to the short-term blending of impoverished children and wealthy Americans who donate thousands of dollars each for the chance to come to Zambia and roll up their sleeves. The online charity world is awash with tales of 'voluntourism' gone wrong, of