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Citation Information

Type Journal Article
Title An assessment: the situation of children made vulnerable or orphaned in Guyana
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2004
URL http://www.unicef.org/guyana/OVC_Report.pdf
The social and economic factors contributing to children of Guyana becoming orphaned or
made vulnerable have been cause for major concern. Increasingly, children suffer in various
ways; some from abuse, others are exposed to various forms of violence, neglected or
abandoned, and also have to face the challenge of them or their parents dealing with life
threatening diseases such as cancer and HIV. These situations are magnified even more, due
to the high rate of poverty that exists in Guyana and the fact that children who try to find
places or persons to assist in meeting their needs are often met with several barriers, chief of
which is the inadequacies of the services to fully support or assist them.
After Haiti, Guyana has the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean and
AIDS is now considered the second leading cause of death in Guyana. Therefore children
with the disease or who have parents with the disease will not only have to deal with the
complications of this disease, but the likelihood of becoming orphaned at an early stage.
Children and adolescents who are orphaned, whether by the HIV/AIDS epidemic or other
causes, are generally from families who have experienced the consequences of poverty, lack of
access to services, discrimination and family disruption. These children are most often cared
for solely by their mother, and some times with or without the assistance of other family
members such as a grandmother Around the world there are children who lose their parents,
either permanently or temporarily, children who experience natural and man made disasters, as
well as pandemics and various forms of abuse. This is no different for Guyanese children. The
factors that put our children at risk of being orphaned or becoming vulnerable are basically
the same and create the same needs and challenges. However, the degree of some challenges
may vary based on the cause.
This rapid assessment was therefore carried out to ascertain what is happening to children
who fall in the category of OVC, regardless of the cause of orphaning or vulnerability. The
assessment, which was done in all 10 Administrative Regions of Guyana, saw children and
their caregivers interviewed, group discussions conducted and Key Informants in
Organizations interviewed.
The loss of one of both parents is one of the single most devastating factors that contribute
significantly to children falling into the category of being vulnerable. The death of a parent
means that children are often left without the same level of care that was provided by the
parent(s). For many children this translates into being deprived of individualized love,
affection, attention and care. Other experiences for children include psychological trauma, that
often is not acknowledged or dealt with – as was seen with a number of children interviewed;
dropping out of school or attending school inconsistently; being targeted for stigma and
discrimination (especially where the parents died from HIV/AIDS related illnesses, and to a
lesser degree, suicide); increased physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse, which in some
cases has led to an increased risk of HIV infection; and child labour.
Not unlike other parts of the world. The illness, death or absence of a parent means that the
family’s ability to provide economically for itself is negatively affected. Therefore, the needs of
the children are correspondingly affected. This leads to more and more children are forced to
take on the considerable responsibility of supporting their family.
The findings have also revealed that more children than we know are in danger of becoming
OVC or have already become OVC. Their challenges are great and the emotional pain created
by their circumstances needs urgent attention. Organizations are unable to deal with the
challenges faced and so their capacity needs to be built in order to respond effectively. On
their own, many families are incapable of effectively meeting the needs of these children and if
there is going to be a change in the pattern, an urgent response is needed.
No one agency will be sufficient to make this response, so an integrated and collaborated
approach must be adopted if success is to be achieved.

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