In a small village in Malawi, a grandmother of five lost her will to live.
Gogo Abiti Juma took over care for her five grandchildren after their parents died of AIDS, and the family struggled to survive. They had little access to food, shelter, health care, or a meaningful social support system. Three of the five children dropped out of school, and Gogo Abiti Juma’s mental health spiraled.
“For three times, I tried to commit suicide,” the grandmother told a team of UW–Madison-funded researchers. “Because of the insults, abuses that community members — particularly the youth — used to throw at me.”
Unfortunately, Abiti Juma’s situation isn’t rare. According to Malawi’s National AIDS Commission, nearly 20 percent of children in the country are orphans because of the AIDS pandemic, and roughly half of those children live in grandmother-headed households where social stigma makes life even more difficult.