Changing patterns of orphan care due to the HIV epidemic in western Kenya

Type Journal Article - Social Science & Medicine
Title Changing patterns of orphan care due to the HIV epidemic in western Kenya
Volume 57
Issue 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2003
Page numbers 301-311
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has given rise to major demographic changes including an alarming number of orphans in
sub-Saharan Africa. The study describes a rural community in western Kenya in which one out of three children below
18 years of age had lost at least one biological parent—and one out of nine had lost both. The main problems these
children faced were lack of school fees, food and access to medical care. The high number of orphans has overwhelmed
the traditional mechanisms for orphan care, which were based on patrilineal kinship ties. Thus, 28% of the orphans
were looked after by culturally ‘‘inappropriate’’ categories such as matrilineal kin or strangers. Furthermore, many of
the caretakers were themselves not capable due to ill health or old age. Factors such as poverty, negative attitudes, and
traditional funeral customs made the orphans’ situation even worse. The authors conclude that though communitybased
interventions are urgently needed as the most appropriate way to address the issue, the complex, local reality in
which cultural factors, kinship ties, and poverty are interwoven needs to be taken into consideration if sustainable
solutions are to be found

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