South Africa

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CRS in South Africa

South Africa is a middle-income developing country with an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange that ranks among the 10 largest in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. 

However, growth has not been strong enough to cut into high unemployment, and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era, especially the problems of poverty and lack of economic empowerment amongst disadvantaged groups. South Africa has the most people living with HIV and AIDS in the world. The country continues to feel the devastating impact of the disease with high numbers of vulnerable children, poverty, unemployment, violence and crime. 

Catholic Relief Services established its presence in South Africa at the invitation of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference to support the Conference in its response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic. CRS has supported HIV/AIDS and Justice & Peace programming in South Africa since late 2000.  CRS has established strong partnerships and has contributed significantly to the work being done to mitigate the AIDS epidemic.  


People Served: 7,618 (FY 2014: 1,418 direct; 6,200 indirect)

Population: 54,841,552

Size: 470,462 sq mi; slightly less than twice the size of Texas

CRS' History in South Africa

In late 2000, at the invitation of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC), Catholic Relief Services opened an office in South Africa devoted to HIV and AIDS work. CRS South Africa works in close partnership with the SACBC and its counterparts to help reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS and promote peacebuilding across the country’s 29 dioceses. 

South Africa is the second largest economy of Africa. A great divide exists, however, between the rich and poor — a daunting legacy of the country's recent past. South Africa also has 6.3 million people living with HIV, more than any other country worldwide. The epidemic is devastating poor and marginalized communities and has taken one or both parents from more than 2.4 million children. Catholic Relief Services is supporting the local Catholic Church to respond to this crisis and provide needed care and support to those most in need.

CRS supports HIV and AIDS programming that focuses on care and support for people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, care for orphans and vulnerable children, prevention education (including lifeskill programs), stigma reduction, and voluntary testing and counseling.  

The Justice & Peacebuilding projects that CRS supports focus on poverty alleviation, civic participation, conflict resolution, peacemaking, and advocacy.

A third programming area in which CRS was supporting the local partners is that of refugees and migrants, particularly in the light of the continued migration of migrants and refugees from Zimbabwe and xenophobic attacks on migrants.

Through its Church partners, CRS provides funding and support for projects and programs which:

  • Respond to HIV and AIDS in the poorest, most remote areas of the country by providing home-based and community-based care for adults and children infected and affected by the disease.

  • Offer lifeskills education to children and youth through Catholic schools as well as community-based programs in poverty-stricken rural areas that will help them in making decisions about their lives, and assist in protecting themselves from contracting the virus.

  • Support the local Church to advocate for policies and programs that will decrease people’s vulnerability to HIV and AIDS and help families and communities to cope.

  • Support the South African Government’s efforts to provide antiretroviral therapy, thereby providing people with the means to live longer and bringing hope to families.