Orphans & vulnerable children

Children whose parents have died often experience many negative changes in their lives and can start to suffer neglect, including emotional neglect, once they are orphaned. Eventually, they may suffer the death of their parent(s) and the emotional trauma that results. In this case, they may then have to adjust to a new situation, with little or no support, and may suffer exploitation and abuse.

It is estimated that approximately 2.4 Million (11%) of Kenyan children below 15 years of age are orphans (KDHS, 2003); approximately 1 million (42%) of these have been orphaned due to AIDS (estimated from KNASP II 2005/6-2009/10). The living conditions of OVC have made it impossible to provide them with basic services. According to the Integrated Household Budget Survey 2005/6, only 85 percent of children who have lost one or both parents were attending school compared to 93 percent of other children.  OVC also tend to start school late and drop out earlier than other children. About 82 percent of children between ages 0-4 years had birth registration documents but the majority of children unregistered are orphans.

The increased numbers of defilement cases affecting children (2008 Kenya police crime report and data) continues to be a grim reality for many children particularly Orphans and Vulnerable Children who often live with insufficient care and support.

 

The extended family structure in Kenya has traditionally provided an effective safety net for small numbers of OVC, but with the increasing number of new HIV infections and AIDS related deaths; the traditional care structures are increasingly burdened. In many cases, grandparents or any other relatives are caring for young children, and in certain circumstances families are headed by children as young as 10-12 years old. Moreover, due to the current breakdown in social support systems and the wide spread poverty in the country, communities are often not willing to address the growing issue of the increasing number of orphans living amidst them. Where such family and community safety nets have disintegrated, the children are living completely outside any family structure, either in orphanages or in the street.

 

In the rural areas of kenya orphans have special physical, psychological needs, which may not be adequately met by the communities, which already burdened by oppression, poverty, diseases and current hunger and further weakened as a result of AIDs. High treatment costs incurred by ailing patients leave a wide economic gap to these orphans after the death of their parents. They are left without proper parental care, including food, shelter, clothing, medical attention and education. Often emotionally vulnerable and financially desperate orphaned children are more likely to be sexually abused and forced into exploitative situation, such as prostitution as a means of survival. Female orphans are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and HIV infection. Because of continuous exploitation, they risk the possibility of unknowingly being agents of the spread of the HIV if they themselves are infected. In some cases their keen rejects male orphan while their sisters are viewed as more useful household resources.