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Africa’s Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations

Africa's Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations: Children affected by AIDS incorporates new and refined estimates of the number of children orphaned in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as current research on the impact of AIDS and orphaning.

Maputo, 30 August 2006- The report Africa's Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations: Children affected by AIDS, which was released at the International AIDS conference in Toronto in August 2006, shows how the AIDS epidemic continues to affect children disproportionately on the continent, leaving many of them orphaned and vulnerable.

Released by UNICEF, UNAIDS and PEPFAR (The US President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief), the report contains new and improved research on orphans and vulnerable children, including what governments, NGO's, the private sector and the international community can do to better respond.

AIDS is the leading cause of death among adults aged 15-59 in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 12.2 million children aged 0-17 have lost one or both parents to AIDS, making the region home to 80 per cent of all the children in the developing world who have lost a parent to the disease.

Children are experiencing the greatest parental loss in southern Africa, where HIV prevalence rates are highest. Of the 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where 15 per cent or more of all children were orphans in 2005, seven were in southern Africa.

How children are affected

Children are affected when their communities and the services these communities provide are strained by the consequences of the AIDS pandemic. But, as the report outlines, children are affected in a number of ways:

  • As a cause of orphaning, AIDS is exceptional, because if one parent is infected with HIV, the probability is quite high that the other parent is also infected, putting children at high risk of losing both within a relatively short time. Of the 9.1 million double orphans in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005, around 5.2 million, or almost 60 per cent, had lost at least one of their parents to AIDS. According to the report, 34 per cent of an estimated 1.6 million orphans in 2005 in Mozambique are due to AIDS. 
  • AIDS has become so prevalent in parts of sub-Saharan Africa that trends in under-five mortality are changing. Research in the region between 1990 and 1999 found that under-five mortality attributed to AIDS increased from two per cent in 1990 to 7.7 per cent in 1999.

  • One important concern mentioned in the report is that orphans will acquire less education because they may have caregivers who cannot afford the costs of schooling.

  • Children in households affected by AIDS are witnessing, or in some cases caring for, their parents or other caregivers dying of AIDS. This painful process is often compounded by the stigma and discrimination attached to HIV and to being an orphan. Children may be rejected by their friends and schoolmates or relatives.
© UNICEF/MOZA06-001096/G.Pirozzi
In many sub-Saharan countries, extended families have assumed responsibility, with little public support, for more than 90 per cent of all double orphans not living with the surviving parent.

What can be done

In 2004, a consensus was achieved on a global framework for responding to the growing numbers of orphans and vulnerable children. The Framework for the Protection Care and Support of Orphans and Vulnerable Children Living in a World with HIV and AIDS puts forward five broad action areas:

  • Strengthen the capacity of families to protect and care for orphans and vulnerable children by prolonging the lives of parents and providing economic, psychosocial and other support.
  • Mobilize and support community-based responses.
  • Ensure access for orphans and vulnerable children to essential services, including education, health care and birth registration.
  • Ensure that governments protect the most vulnerable children through improved policy and legislation and by channelling resources to families and communities.
  • Raise awareness at all levels through advocacy and social mobilization to create a supportive environment for children and families affected by HIV and AIDS.

Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a number of countries in other regions, are now developing national plans of action for these five areas.


In Mozambique, the National Plan of Action to Combat HIV/AIDS 2005-2009 (known as the PEN II) assigns responsibility for coordinating efforts to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on orphans to the Ministry of Women and Social Action (MMAS). The Government’s policy aims to promote community-based, rather than institutional care for orphaned and other vulnerable children.

In addition, MMAS developed a National Action Plan for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children, 2005-2010, which was approved in 2006, in response to this growing crisis.

The Plan recognises that the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children are inter-dependent and that actions need to address them as a whole if they are to make a significant difference in the quality of children’s lives. The plan identifies six basic services- health, education, nutritional and food support, financial support, legal and psycho-social support- to be provided to orphaned and vulnerable children. Because of limited resources and capacity, the Government of Mozambique defines the provision of at least three of these services as the minimum standard for the care of orphaned and vulnerable children in Mozambique.




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