The Amajuba Child Health and Well-Being Research Project

Project Description

In 2007, South Africa had an estimated 3.7 million orphans, around 20 percent of the country’s population of children. Approximately half of these children were orphaned by AIDS. South Africa has been hit hard by HIV, with 18% of the adult population infected with the virus. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal the rate is even higher, with up to 37% of adults infected. Even with scaled-up treatment programs, the number of orphans is expected to grow through at least 2015.

Led by Tim Quinlan, the Amajuba Child Health and Well-Being Research Project was a collaboration between the CGHD and the Health, Economics and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Our shared goal was to improve understanding of how the recent death of a parent affects the well-being of school-aged children in an area so heavily affected by HIV/AIDS.

The CGHD followed a cohort of 157 recent orphans and 568 non-orphans, as well as their caregivers and household heads, in Amajuba District annually for three years. Our research showed that within two years after the death of a parent, orphans experienced health and nutrition deficits compared to non-orphans. Those who had lost both parents reported worse overall health and more serious illness in the last six months, while children who had lost only one parent were less likely to seek care for serious illness. Orphans in our sample experienced hunger more frequently than non-orphans; however, they did not experience greater levels of depression or anxiety.

HEARD has continued work in the district, collaborating with government and nongovernmental agencies to improve service delivery to orphans, vulnerable children, and caregivers. They have just completed a social marketing project that focused on breaking down barriers to health services and social grant entitlements faced by extremely vulnerable families. One recent outcome of our research is a proposal to the Amajuba District to integrate child welfare services which would make social services more accessible to orphans and their caregivers.

Visit the HEARD website for more information on the Amajuba District and HEARD’s work there (including a short documentary film).

Project Details

Principal Investigator Jonathon Simon
Boston University Co-Investigators Mary Bachman DeSilva
Country(ies) South Africa
Dates of Research 2007–2008