Community Care or the Institution?

This short article highlights the growing problems associated with orphanages in Zambia. It documents how the plight of vulnerable children can be exploited to achieve financial gains, and implicates this mechanism in a nationwide trend of orphanage proliferation.

Intensive international donor support for orphans and vulnerable children adds a perverse monetary incentive to the provision of child care. Individuals running orphanages often lack the means to manage and provide adequate care and support for the children. Children living in orphanages may be forced to live in squalid conditions, subject to physical and sexual abuse, or trafficked as labor. Nevertheless, as money continues to arrive in support of "orphans and vulnerable children" and the number of children at risk climbs in the wake of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the number of orphanages continues to increase rapidly.

Several effective community-based responses are cited as alternatives to institutional care. These alternatives are better able to address children's rights and needs. They are also less costly and better-aligned with Zambia's traditional systems of care.