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AIDS Care. 1995;7(1):3-17.

Orphan prevalence and extended family care in a peri-urban community in Zimbabwe.

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  • 1Paediatric Dept, Mutare Hospital, Zimbabwe.


An orphan enumeration survey was conducted in 570 households in and around Mutare, Zimbabwe in 1992; 18.3% (95% CI 15.1-21.5%) of households included orphans. 12.8% (95% CI 11.2-14.3%) of children under 15 years old had a father or mother who had died; 5% of orphans had lost both parents. Orphan prevalence was highest in a peri-urban rural area (17.2%) and lowest in a middle income medium density urban suburb (4.3%). Recent increases in parental deaths were noted; 50% of parental deaths since 1987 could be ascribed to AIDS. Orphan household heads were likely to be older and less well-educated than non-orphan household heads. The majority of orphaned children were being cared for satisfactorily within extended families, often under difficult circumstances. Caregiving by maternal relatives represents a departure from the traditional practice of caring for orphans within the paternal extended family and an adaptation of community-coping mechanisms. There was little evidence of discrimination or exploitation of orphaned children by extended family caregivers. The fact that community coping mechanisms are changing does not imply that extended family methods of caring are about to break down. However, the emergence of orphan households headed by siblings is an indication that the extended family is under stress. Emphasis needs to be placed upon supporting extended families by utilizing existing community-based organizations. Orphan support programmes may need to be established initially in high risk communities such as low-income urban areas and peri-urban rural areas.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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