Orphans and vulnerable children

The term “orphans and vulnerable children” (OVC) is used to describe all children who are judged to be vulnerable and at risk, including children affected by poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS.

Traditionally, the term “orphan” describes a child whose mother or both parents have died, but used in this way it tends to underestimate the total number of orphans or the impact of paternal death, especially within the context of the HIV/Aids pandemic. Therefore, a more useful definition of an orphan is: “a child under the age of 18 who has lost either one or both parents.”

Research shows that, compared to other children, orphans and other vulnerable children are more likely to do badly at school and/or drop out of school, have poor educational and vocational opportunities, have poor health and nutrition, lack love, care and attention, experience stigma and discrimination, experience economic exploitation and abuse, suffer sexual abuse and exploitation, become HIV-infected, lack emotional support to deal with grief and trauma, experience long-term psychological problems, take drugs and other substances and become involved in crime.

Projects in this sector provide comprehensive services to OVCs, including identifying child-headed households, encouraging families to adopt and foster children in their own homes, ensuring that children attend school, assisting with food, clothing, shelter, school uniforms, and so on, and referring children to health services and voluntary counselling and testing as needed.