The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on kinship resources for the orphans of Zimbabwe

Emilio Zagheni, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

The extended family has been recognized as a major safety net for orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. But the mortality crisis associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic may drastically reduce the number of relatives available to orphans and thus undermine traditional forms of mutual support. In this paper, a microsimulation, whose core relies on SOCSIM, is used to estimate and project quantities such as the number of living uncles, aunts, siblings and grandparents available to double orphans. The model is calibrated to the Zimbabwean setting, using data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), and estimates and projections of demographic rates from the United Nations. The paper shows that there is a lag of more than ten years between the peak in orphanhood prevalence and the highest scarcity of grandparents for orphans. The results suggest that we may expect an extended impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on orphans. A first wave of rapid increase in the number of orphans will be followed by a second wave of impact characterized by a steady reduction in grandparental resources for orphans. This trend is likely to shift the burden of double orphans to uncles and aunts. The availability of living uncles and aunts per double orphan has been decreasing from 1980 to 2010, but it is expected to increase progressively during the next decades. This study raises questions on the social consequences of changes in kinship structure, and on the strategies needed to address the lack of care in the context of a generalized HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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Presented in Poster Session 1