Care of orphans in traditional foster homes (extended family care) in Lusaka district
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Objective: To determine the extent to which orphans and foster parents know and make use of services aimed at mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS related orphanhood. Design: This was a population study involving randomly selected households with orphans in Kabwata constituency. Setting: the study was carried out in Kabwata health centre catchment area, which is a part of the Kabwata constituency. This area is a council planned settlement with sanitation, water, telephone and road infrastructure in place. The area is estimated to have a population of 71,722 of which the population below 15 years old was 8,607. (Kabwata Health centre HMIS 2005)Methodology: Research assistants using a structured guestionnaire, randomly recorded interviews with 380 households and 662 orphans.In this study only those households with orphans were interviewed upon obtaining consent and assent from them. Those who refused were not included in the study. Main objective of the study:The main objective of the study was to look at the use of support and care groups by households with orphans, and whether the heads of households were aware of government policies on orphans and who in the community actually took care of them. Results:The study showed that 98.5% (370) of heads of households did not make use of care and support groups, 63.7% (235) of orphans were in the care of single women and 67.7% were in the care of widows. Over two-thirds (117) of the heads of households earned less than US $100 per month. The fact that single women and widows cared for orphans signified the magnitude of the problem.Double orphans were 34% (223) and single orphans 66% (439). 84% (409) of the orphans walked to school. The remaining parent cared for over 82% (358) of the single orphans. 96% (364) of the orphans did not receive any care and support from the care and support groups? Major help received was food and some funding to assist the orphans for primary school.The area being a planned settlement with most residents being considered middle class was overlooked by most care and support groups. Major causes of death of the parents of the orphans were HIV, chronic illness and tuberculosis; together they constituted about 70%(252). If these children were tested, HIV infection could be a common feature among them.Conclusions:Of the 380 heads of households 66% (251) were single parents with an average of 2 orphans each. 20% of these (76) were above the age of 50. 80% (301) of the orphans fell between the ages 6 to 14 years of the age. 67% (446) have not yet acguired education beyond grade 9.Data clearly demonstrates most of the parents of the orphans were infected with HIV infection. Suspicion of transmission of HIV to these children could also be high in their offspring. Finally most of the parents coming from peri-urban low socio-economic background were not aware of the support services nor did they make use of them. Recommendations:There is urgent need to revisit the efficacy of the care and support services for the orphans. If these were successful the plight of the foster parents would be less and the future of the orphans would be bright. Identification of HIV is an important issue if one intends to reduce the number of orphans in Zambia, which is likely to be about 2 million by the year 2010. Voluntary counselling and testing care and support services including prevention of mother to child transmission must be strengthened, without which the future of orphans looks uncertain. It was hoped that with help of support services the foster homes would give better care to the orphans. However, the outcome of this study has proved this to be wrong.
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