The Need Abroad
UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents. By this definition there were over 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005. Of these, it is estimated that 13 million have lost both parents. 95% of all orphans are over the age of 5.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 24 of the 25 countries with the world’s highest levels of HIV prevalence, and this is reflected in the rapid rise in the number of orphaned children. In 2003, there were 43 million orphans in the region, an increase of more than one-third since 1990 AIDS (“Children on the Brink: 2004, a Joint Report of New Orphan Estimates, and a Framework for Action,” UNAIDS, USAID, UNICEF, July 2004). According to a recent analyses by UNICEF, caring practices in 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa show that extended families have assumed responsibility for more than 90 percent of these orphaned children. Today, 20 percent of households with children in southern Africa are caring for one or more orphans. Placing orphaned children within extended family networks will likely continue to be the primary response in most countries. However, as the number of orphans increases over the coming decade and an ever larger number of adults are affected by HIV/AIDS, these extended family networks will face even greater burdens.
While Africa is proportionally the region hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, the total number of orphans is largest in Asia. Assuming the rate of HIV/AIDS remains constant, it is estimated that nearly 80 million children in Asia will be living outside the care of one or both of their parents by the year 2010. Even in Latin America and the Caribbean, with both smaller populations and lower prevalence of HIV/AIDS, there were estimated to be 12.4 million orphans in 2003.
Experts point to several new trends. First, the rate of newly orphaned children per year is increasing at a higher rate than before. What this means is that affected countries are continually having to respond to an increasingly large number of children in need of orphan related services and support. This is proving to be extremely burdensome, particularly for countries whose social support system was already under resourced or over stressed. Secondly, a significant number of countries, particularly those in the developing world, are faced with the reality that more than 10 percent of their population under 18 is an orphan. Finally, due in large part to HIV/AIDS, there are larger numbers of double orphans (children who have no living parents) and maternal orphans (children who have lost their mother) than ever before.
A source of constant debate is how best to respond to the alarmingly high number of children living outside the care of a family. The universal consensus is that the institutionalization of children should be avoided whenever possible. But beyond that, there is no global vision on how best to respond to the orphan crisis. And on a local level, by the end of 2003, only 17 countries with generalized epidemics reported having any national policy for orphans and vulnerable children to guide strategic decision-making and resource allocation.
In 2007, the U.S. government reported spending $225 million, less than .7 percent of the U.S. foreign aid budget, on Orphans and Vulnerable Children. The vast majority of these funds are used to provide housing, nutrition, health care, education and protection for orphans and vulnerable and children.
A review of current U.S. funded foreign aid programs suggests that there are at least three barriers standing in the way of the United States being a leader in providing a family for every child. First, current programs serving orphans and vulnerable children are disorganized and disconnected and often impose a wide variety of different policies and priorities, creating in some cases mutually exclusive strategies. Secondly, officers working to address the needs of orphans lack the authority, visibility and resources needed to make a real difference in this area. Finally, fully addressing the needs of orphans would require that the U.S. advise and support other countries in the development of child welfare systems that offer permanency for orphaned children.
CCAI is proud to continue its work to address these and other barriers that hinder orphaned children from having the love, attention, and care needed not only to survive, but to thrive.