This paper analyses the reasons for the emergence and the living conditions of child- and youth-headed households (CHHs) in Namibia. In existence since the late 1990s, CHHs are still an infrequent living arrangement in the country, located generally in rural areas and headed by older siblings in their teens or early 20s. Ethnographic interviews with 33 CHHs revealed that children's own choice and family unavailability or unwillingness to foster are the main reasons for their emergence. The study also revealed functional CHHs, headed by non-orphans as a means to facilitate school access to children from remote rural areas. Whereas most children inherited kitchen utensils, clothes and small personal items, at least 42% of the children interviewed suffered property grabbing by (paternal) relatives. Two out of every three households experienced a decrease in income following the parental death, yet friends, neighbours and relatives still provide different kinds of assistance to children. The presence of an adult, even if very frail, seems to protect children from abuse and facilitate access to resources. Older siblings are generally the ones in charge of running the household as well as raising income. This they do through fetching water and wood, performing domestic work or cultivating for others; in the urban areas, children collect bottles and unload trucks. Some children manage their own business activities, such as plaiting hair, making and selling baskets, bricks or fatcooks (small fried cakes). Risk of dependency on outside assistance coexists with children's initiative and action. Schools' involvement remains crucial towards the identification of children's needs and the provision of support. Adequate disaggregated data on the situation of CHHs should be gathered systematically to inform policy-makers and service providers in the country.