Pongola has the highest number of HIV-Aids orphans in KwaZulu-Natal, Mandla Ngema, welfare spokesman, said.
"We have identified 500 orphans in the area and this is the biggest number we have found so far across KwaZulu-Natal."
He said the department had allocated "R509 million to be spent towards the welfare of these orphans" .
"The majority of the children are HIV-Aids orphans. Their parents died of this dreadful disease and left them to fend for themselves."
Ngema said that when rural people are diagnosed with the disease they do not have the money to treat themselves.
Some relatives and neighbours are afraid to take the orphans into their care because of the stigma attached to the disease. Some children go to bed on empty stomachs and others rely on neighbours and relatives for food.
Ngema said efforts were under way to provide food, shelter and education for the children. - Sicelo Dladla