Why are there so many orphans in Kenya?

In Kenya, the situation of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) is an issue of concern. Currently it is estimated that there are over 3 million Orphans in the country, 47 percent orphaned as a result of HIV and AIDS and many more remain vulnerable due to several other factors. The statistics surrounding the rising population and the immense suffering of these children can be overwhelming.

Over 25% of the population live on less than $1 per day and 12-15% of households in Kenya are headed by an orphan sibling. 700 children are orphaned every day (that is a child every 2 minutes) and 1/3 of these are orphaned due to HIV / AIDS. This means that the number of orphans is set to rise. Traumatised by the death of parents, at times the orphans become antisocial. It has not helped matters that the society seems to have become impervious to their plight. The fact that these children do not have parents predisposes them to exploitation. Orphans are especially a soft target for child traffickers.

HIV and AIDS scourge compounded with high poverty levels have aggravated the situation of OVCs in Kenya. Children affected by HIV/AIDS are vulnerable long before their parents die. Girls, in particular, assume caring responsibilities for their ailing parents besides parenting for their siblings. In some regions of the country, over 25% of orphans are acutely malnourished in a country whose economy is largely driven by agriculture. With an economically weakened and overstretched traditional African extended family system that can no longer work effectively to address the high OVC burden, most children find themselves without proper social support with the incapacitation and death of their parents.

The future of these children remains very unpredictable. This will deny the OVCs a chance to access their basic needs such as proper health care, education shelter and nutrition. Orphans suffer stigma, stress and trauma in addition to the loss of parental love, care and protection and more often they are disinherited by their next of kin.1

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1The Plight of Orphans in Kenya, Fred Afwai, August 26, 2013