, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 619-626
Date: 26 Apr 2006

Towards a Definition of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

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The HIV epidemic presents challenges including orphans and a large mass of children rendered vulnerable by the epidemic and other societal forces. Focus on orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) is important, but needs accurate definition. Twelve focus group interviews of service providers, leaders in these communities, OVC and their caretakers were conducted at six project sites across Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe to extend this definition. The loss of a parent through death or desertion is an important aspect of vulnerability. Additional factors leading to vulnerability included severe chronic illness of a parent or caregiver, poverty, hunger, lack of access to services, inadequate clothing or shelter, overcrowding, deficient caretakers, and factors specific to the child, including disability, direct experience of physical or sexual violence, or severe chronic illness. Important questions raised in this research include the long-term implications for the child and community, and the contribution of culture systems.