July 22nd, 2007

Child-headed Households

AIDS is tearing apart families in sub-Saharan Africa. As AVERT reports:

An estimated 24.5 million adults and children were living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2005.

During that year, an estimated 2 million people died from AIDS. The epidemic has left behind some 12 million orphaned African children. (via)

The number of OVC (orphaned and vulnerable children) has only risen since then. Every 14 seconds, a new child is orphaned from AIDS.

Middle aged people are affected the most by AIDS, with adults (18-50 years of age) dying left and right, leaving their parents to watch over their children. Grandmothers have become the saviors of sub-Saharan Africa, often caring for multiple sets of children when their parents have died.

But when the grandparents have already passed on, the children are left to fend for themselves. This creates a living situation termed “child-headed households”, where the oldest child becomes the guardian of his/her younger siblings. Sometime the head of house is a teenager, or sometimes the child is no more than six or seven years of age.

Examples of these “families” can be seen here, here, here, here, and here.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World says:

Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

It is heartbreaking to witness the holocaust of our day and meet these children who are left to fend for themselves, without any parental support, love, or guidance.

In the time it took you to read this blog post, two to four more children were orphaned due to AIDS.

10 Responses to “Child-headed Households”

  1. cew-smoke
    July 23, 2007 at 3:23 pm #

    And that’s only half the story. Factor in the 1,000,000 deaths a year from Malaria, plus the vast number of people killed from more mundane things like dyssentary, starvation, etc. and add to that whatever ungodly number of people die each year in the regional, political and religious violence and I have no doubt that you would need to triple your numbers.

    The Lord must weep at what is allowed to happen to his children. The deeply sad thing is that with the right resources and efforts these numbers could be dramatically decreased. However, I don’t see that happening in our lifetime. The problems they suffer from and the sheer vastness of number of people affected, compunded by the horrible abuses and immorality of the governments there I think appear overwhelming at best. Without serious external intervention, I honestly don’t see things getting better.

  2. Mark Mathson
    July 23, 2007 at 9:33 pm #

    It is amazing to me, what these children endure. You can see in the story-telling pictures that these children are suffering, yet have a deep inner strength.

  3. Michelle
    July 31, 2007 at 11:34 pm #

    Whenever I read something like this, I feel like I’ve been hit in the gut. Hard.

  4. Patricia Gumede
    August 2, 2007 at 5:18 am #


  5. Tendai Garutsa
    April 17, 2008 at 8:16 am #

    Its sad that our siblings are experiencing such burdens.If only the world would work together as one to ensure the onogoing of their livelihoods.There is need of the action oriented approach ,that is basically acting and changing their lives in a sustainable way.I personally sympathise with these kids and this has prompted m to study the Child headed households inorder to make a contribution that would change their lives forever.

  6. Lackshard Shangwa
    May 29, 2008 at 10:29 am #

    It is vital to build a movement in which children shal be empowered to be their won liberators. Current circumstances really need a new way of act positively for the sake of children. We can talk about the numbers but as long we do not act now, the problem will grow beyond control. This way I feel al progressive people both as collective and individually we ought to do more. Personaly have been in the field of development for the past 20 years, have gained enogh experience to build a private organisation that shal work directly with children all children rich and poor. I owe this to the children of the world

  7. Lackshard Shangwa
    May 29, 2008 at 10:34 am #

    I owe a lot to the children of the world. We have to think wisely about this problem. All progressive people both as individuals and collective we ought to do more.

  8. Lackshard Shangwa
    June 1, 2008 at 4:49 am #

    We want to leave by each other’s happiness not each others misery
    We don’t want to hate and despise one another
    In this world there is place for everyone and good earth is rich and can provide for everyone
    The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way
    Greedy has poisoned men’s souls, has blocked the way with hate, segregation, racism, war, hunger and misery
    Has pushed man to horrific wars and bloodshed

    The enemy to humanity has developed speed and he has shuttered himself
    In a machinery that gives him riches in abundance and left humanity in want
    His knowledge has made him sincal
    He thinks too much and feels too little

    More than machinery we need humanity
    More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness
    More than arrogance we need modest
    Without these qualities life will be violent and all will be lost

    The children’s conditions call upon good hearted people to act
    They are desperate for the goodness in man
    Cries out for universal brotherhood and for the unity of soul

    Even now my voice is reaching to more than 1 million children who are labouring for the rich at the expense of their own education
    Is reaching to 1 million children who are trafficked on annual basis and used fro prostitution and slavery at the expense of a bright future.
    I speak on behalf of the 27,000 children who die everyday from preventable diseases
    On behalf of more than 300,000 child soldiers whose souls are tormented under the intense heat of Congo, Afghan dust, the Asian jungles and under the tropical rains of northern Ugaanda they are forced to take up arms for no apparent reason.

    For those who can hear me now , I say don’t despair
    The misery upon us heralds the passing away of the greedy men
    Who fear the way of human progress
    The hate of man will pass and greedy shall die
    The power they took from the people will return to the people
    So long man die liberty will never perish

    I would like to ask all small and big to assist the children.

  9. mkateko novela
    March 13, 2009 at 10:01 am #

    im one of the people who are orphaned due to hiv and aids, i have lost both my parents and my younger sister. the experience is realy disturbing. The fact that extended family members are not willing to take care of orphanes is even heart breaking. what i can advice other people like me is that god has a plan with ur life, just hold on and do the best u can to have a good life, i know is not easy believe me but u do have the potential to make it in life and im an example of that.


  1. TumbleMark - July 26, 2007

    […] Connor’s Conundrums » Child-headed Households […]

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