Epidemiology of health and vulnerability among children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa
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The HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has already orphaned a generation of children, and it is projected that by 2010, 18 million African children under the age of 18 are likely to be orphans from this single cause (UNICEF, 2005, The state of the Worlds Children: Childhood under threat. New York: UNICEF). Results from a Kellogg funded OVC project (Skinner et al., 2004, Definition of orphaned and vulnerable children . Cape Town: HSRC) supported the construct that the loss of either or both parents would indicate a situation of likely vulnerability of children. A key problem in the literature on the impact of orphan hood on the well-being of children, families and communities, is that the focus of assertions and predictions is often on the negative impact on 'AIDS orphans', or households. There are hardly any studies that compare the experiences of orphans with non-orphans. This paper thus attempts to fill that gap. It uses epidemiological data to explore the epidemiology of health and vulnerability of children within the context of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Because of data limitations, only the following aspects are examined: (i) orphan status; (ii) household structure (in particular grandparent headedness and female-headedness); (iii) illness of parents; (iv) poverty; and (v) access to services, especially schooling, health, social services. While recognizing the limitations of the analysis, data presented in this paper indicates that orphans in sub-Saharan Africa are more vulnerable than non-orphans. The authors conclude with some suggestions for policy makers and programme implementers, highlighting the importance of focusing on interventions that will have maximum
impact on the health and well-being of children.