Households receiving help with orphan care

Export Indicator

In households caring for orphans, the percent receiving free help with care from outside the household within the last 12 months
What it measures

This indicator attempts to measure the coverage of orphan support programmes. Orphans are defined as children under 15 who have lost one or both of their parents.


Orphan support is one of the areas of care and support that has received the most attention. It represents a real and growing need. It is relatively uncontroversial and is widely supported by both communities and donors. Besides reducing the difficulties faced by children who have lost their parents, good orphan support systems can play an important role in HIV prevention. This is because orphans who do not receive support are disproportionately likely to drop out of school, to live an unstable life, to be subject to sexual abuse and vulnerable to high-risk survival strategies.
Orphan support programmes may take the form of regular visiting of orphans and their caregivers in the household, provision of psychological support, help with clothing or school fees or income generating activities. While such efforts are being expanded in badly affected countries, they are rarely able to keep up with the growing need.


Number of households receiving free help in caring for orphans within the last 12 months from sources excluding family or neighbours


Total number of households currently caring for orphans.

Method of measurement

Respondents in the household schedule portion of a population-based survey are asked whether their household is currently caring for any children under the age of 15 whose mother, father or both parents have died. If so, they are asked whether they received any help within the last 12 months in caring for that child from outside the household. Those that received help are asked for the source of the help, and read a list of potential sources, including family members, church groups, village health care workers, social services extension workers, etc. For each source they are asked whether they paid for the help.

Measurement frequency

Education: N/A

Gender: N/A

Geographic location: N/A

Pregnancy status: N/A

Sector: N/A

Target: N/A

Time period: N/A

Explanation of the numerator
Explanation of the denominator
Strengths and weaknesses

The greatest limitation of this indicator is its inability to distinguish whether needs are being met. Not all households caring for orphans need help. The needs of households with multiple orphans may be greater than those with a single orphan, but this will not be captured in this measure. Unfortunately, needs assessment is beyond the scope of a regular populationbased survey. Experience shows that response rates are very high when people are asked whether they need extra support, though more qualitative work distinguishes large differences in actual coping capacity of households that say they would like extra help. Although it gives a picture of overall coverage or orphan support programmes, this indicator does not measure the extent to which support is reaching the neediest.
Orphans are a very mobile population. Those most in need of care may be in child-headed households that do not even qualify for inclusion in a household survey. Street children and others who live outside regular households will also be missed; in some urban areas these children may make up a substantial fraction of orphans in greatest need of care.
By using a measure based on children currently in care, the measure will also miss households who have recently passed on orphans to other homes (perhaps precisely because the received no help with care). Using a measure based on orphan residence in house holds in the previous 12 months would, however, lead to problems of double counting and other measurement difficulties.

Further information