Orphan care in Botswana's working households: growing responsibilities in the absence of adequate support

Am J Public Health. 2006 Aug;96(8):1429-35. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.072280. Epub 2006 Jun 29.


Objectives: Botswana has one of the world's highest HIV-prevalence rates and the world's highest percentages of orphaned children among its population. We assessed the ability of income-earning households in Botswana to adequately care for orphans.

Methods: We used data from the Botswana Family Health Needs Study (2002), a sample of 1033 working adults with caregiving responsibilities who used public services, to assess whether households with orphan-care responsibilities encountered financial and other difficulties. Thirty-seven percent of respondents provided orphan care, usually to extended family members. We applied logistic regression models to determine the factors associated with experiencing problems related to orphan caregiving.

Results: Nearly half of working households with orphan-care responsibilities reported experiencing financial and other difficulties because of orphan care. Issues of concern included caring for multiple orphans, caring for sick adults and orphans simultaneously, receiving no assistance, and low income.

Conclusions: The orphan crisis is impoverishing even working households, where caregivers lack sufficient resources to provide basic needs. Neither the public sector nor communities provide adequate safety nets. International assistance is critical to build capacity within the social welfare infrastructure and to fund community-level activities that support households. Lessons from Botswana's orphan crisis can provide valuable insights to policymakers throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Botswana / epidemiology
  • Caregivers / economics*
  • Caregivers / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child Care / economics*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost of Illness
  • Family Characteristics
  • Financing, Personal
  • Foster Home Care / economics*
  • HIV Infections / economics
  • HIV Infections / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Care / economics
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Public Assistance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Public Policy
  • Social Welfare / economics*