Struggling to survive: orphans and community dependent children in Rwanda

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Veale, Angela
Quigley, P.
Ndibeshye, T.
Nyirimihigo, C.
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Background: The complexity of the Rwandan situation, charges service providers with the responsibility to engage in reflective practice in order to constantly improve the design of programs and their potential to have a meaningful and sustainable impact at the community level. Therefore, in 1999, the Government of Rwanda, in conjunction with UNICEF, decided that is was necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis into the situation of orphans in the country. The rationale behind this decision was driven by the desire to explore the real situation of orphans and, in particular, the nature of their relationship to the communities in which they live. It is widely accepted that the vulnerability of orphans is likely to increase as a result of the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the Rwandan population. Purpose / Objective: The in-depth analysis into the situation of orphans was designed to explore the social biography of orphans within the wider context of a society balancing peace and reconciliation with the debilitating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The assessment was concerned with providing information on how this situation could be improved through policy developments, improved co-ordination and the empowerment of local communities. The objectives for the research are as follows: To identify existing and potential forms of community support for orphans; To assess the contemporary definition of 'orphans' in Rwanda (It has been suggested that community perceptions of orphanhood are not static and that a diverse range of children are often referred to as orphans.); To establish and analyze the links between the continuing vulnerability of orphans and the HIV/AIDS pandemic; To outline the policy framework and guidelines for intervention programs in Rwanda and to evaluate these in relation to the existing body of knowledge on the situation of orphans; To evaluate the needs of professionals working with orphans and on HIV/AIDS-related programs; To gather indicators on the nature and scale of the problems facing orphans and, in particular, on community awareness of HIV/AIDS issues -- modes of transmission, methods of prevention, etc.; To reflect upon the types of program responses that have been implemented since 1994 and to provide a summary of the collective experiences of Government and NGOs; To explore the role of the community in supporting orphans. An essential objective of this study will be to assess the role of the community in providing direct and indirect support to orphans. It is also important to assess the attitudes or opinions that manifest themselves as barriers to the improvement of services to orphans.
Rwanda , Poverty , Child-headed households , Child protection
Veale, A., Quigley, P., Ndibeshye, T. and Nyirimihigo, C. (2000) Struggling to Survive: Orphans and community dependent children in Rwanda, Kigali: UNICEF. Available online:
© 2001 the authors.