As of 2014, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there were approximately 13.3 million children worldwide who lost one or both parents to AIDS and nearly 80 percent of those children live in sub-Saharan Africa. Many millions more were orphaned for other reasons besides AIDS. Adolescents who are orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS are a large and growing population with numerous unmet needs. While the majority of orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) live with extended family members, some live in institutions, youth-headed households, or on the streets. While many programs and publicity efforts focus on young children, more than half of all orphans are in their teen years.

OVCs face particular challenges. First, the HIV epidemic has decimated the population of teachers, health care works, and other service providers that create strong networks of support for OVCs. As a result, OVCs  have less access to education and health care, show more indicators of psychosocial distress, and face greater degrees of child neglect, abandonment, and abuse. They confront stigma, isolation, economic hardship, malnutrition, and an increased risk of HIV infection.

Research and programs have found that the following approaches can help these vulnerable youth:

  • Address the age-appropriate needs that adolescents have, paying particular attention to the different needs of boys and girls;
  • Provide information on reproductive health and HIV prevention services;
  • Provide psychosocial services;
  • Involve youth themselves, including those who are orphans or vulnerable, in providing services;
  • Help adolescents either stay in school or receive livelihood training; and
  • Develop large-scale partnerships to fund and develop broad-reaching programs and strategies. 

Measuring the Determinants of Childhood Vulnerability

A UNICEF Synthesis Report that identifies key determinants of vulnerability among children – including those affected by HIV and AIDS – that can contribute to developing an improved global measure of vulnerable children in the context of HIV and AIDS. Household wealth, a child’s living arrangements, and household adult education emerged as the most powerful and consistent factors associated with key health and social outcomes of child vulnerability. Orphanhood status and the presence of a chronically ill adult in the household are also significant for some outcomes. Orphanhood is significant for schooling, child labor, birth registration and DPT3 vaccine (2014).

Child Rights Information Network

This Web site, available in multiple languages, provides access to reports, events, and news items about child rights, child survival, and youth programming. International publications can be searched by region or theme.

This Web site contains a database of tools, policy documents, programming materials, and news about orphans and vulnerable children and HIV. The library holds over 900 toolkits, papers, and reports.

Mothers Without Borders

Mothers Without Borders serves children in orphanages in Romania, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Nepal, and Bolivia and those living in the streets in Africa and India. Mothers Without Borders supports the efforts of local communities and nongovernmental organizations to address the needs of orphaned children.

Promoting Quality Education for Orphans and Vulnerable Children

This report documents 12 case studies in Kenya, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia that represent a wide range of approaches to addressing the educational rights and needs of orphans and vulnerable children.  As the HIV and AIDS epidemic becomes increasingly complex, and as the personal and social consequences rise, the ways in which societies respond to ensure children's right to quality education must become more integrated, nuanced, and dynamic (2009).

Africa's Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations: Children Affected by AIDS

The AIDS epidemic continues to affect children disproportionately, making them more vulnerable than other children, leaving many of them orphaned, and threatening their survival. This report contains new and improved research on orphans and vulnerable children, including what governments, NGOs, the private sector and the international community can do to better respond (2006).

A Framework for the Protection, Care and Support of Orphans and Vulnerable Children Living in a World of HIV and AIDS

This framework, drawn up by many organizations — governmental, non-governmental, faith-based, academic, and civil society — recommends interventions to be directed to vulnerable children and the communities in which they reside and suggests that programs be integrated into other projects that promote child welfare and reduce poverty (2004). 

Orphans and Vulnerable Children Wellbeing Tool User's Guide

This tool, a self-reporting measure for individuals aged 13–18, was developed as an answer the elusive concept of wellbeing.  It was piloted during a comprehensive evaluation of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) programs funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Haiti, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia and refined after analysis of the results of that pilot. The tool is 36 questions long and takes approximately 20 minutes to administer.  Scoring can be done immediately or via a computer program.  Results can be used to monitor OVC programs over time (2009).

Children in Distress (CINDI)

An informal consortium of nongovernmental organizations based in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. CINDI's Web site provides an overview of projects addressing care and support of AIDS orphans in South Africa and includes papers from the Southern African Conference "Raising the Orphan Generation."

Coalition for Children Affected by AIDS (CCABA)

The archives of an e-mail discussion list that shared timely information on effective strategies to assist children orphaned or otherwise affected by AIDS. They help meet the needs of children affected by HIV/AIDS by advocating and educating on their behalf. The U.S.-based foundation has funded several media projects to raise awareness of the epidemic's impact on African children.

Toolkit for Positive Change: Providing Family-focused Results-driven and Cost-effective Programming for Orphans and Vulnerable Children

This document provides a road map for implementing programs for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC ) and offers evidence-based approaches and tools that could be used to help scale-up services and make them more effective. The donor community can use this toolkit to help make informed decisions about investing their resources. Policy-makers could use it to help determine which interventions and services for OVC would produce the desired outcomes (2009).

Reaching Out to Africa's Orphans: A Framework for Public Action

This report covers such issues as scaling up interventions, costs, public action, orphans' needs, and others (2004).

YouthLens No. 18: Adolescents: Orphaned and Vulnerable in the Time of HIV/AIDS

This paper introduces the key issues affecting adolescents who are orphaned or vulnerable because of HIV/AIDS. A companion brief (YouthLens No. 18—4 pages, 142 KB) summarizes the report.

Missing: Children without Parental Care in International Development Policy

Research shows the number of children growing up without parental care is growing most rapidly in less developed countries. This report warns that failure to keep children in families, out of residential institutions, and off the streets, will be another barrier to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (2009).

Faces of Positive Change: Highlighting Positive Changes in the Lives of Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Ethiopia

This book provides stories about the children, families, and communities who have participated in and benefited from the PC3 Program (Positive Change: Children, Communities, and Care). The program is a five-year (2004-2009) effort designed to provide care and support to half a million orphans and vulnerable children and their families in Ethiopia (2009).

Permaculture Design for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programming: Low-cost, sustainable solutions for food and nutrition insecure communities

Permaculture is a promising development approach for addressing food and nutrition insecurity for orphans and vulnerable children, especially in areas of high HIV-prevalence. In the context of OVC programming, permaculture helps guide communities toward permanent solutions for food and nutrition security, while ensuring that these options exist harmoniously within their environment (2012).