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Percentage of children under the age of 18 who are orphans

Export Indicator

Percentage of children under the age of 18, whose mother or father or both parents have died, disaggregated by sex (female, male), age (<5, 5-9, 10-14, 15-17), type of orphan (maternal, paternal, double).  
What it measures

This indicator measures levels of orphanhood in a country.
 
Definitions of orphanhood differ between countries. In some countries, the legal definition includes all children under the age of 18 who have lost either or both parents. In other countries, it includes all children under the age of 15 who have lost their mother. This indicator provides an inclusive and standardized measure to allow for comparisons across countries.

Rationale

HIV is changing the face of adult mortality in many communities, killing men and women at exactly the ages when they are usually establishing families and bringing up children. Their deaths leave behind orphans who must be cared for, generally by other members of the community. The social and economic impact of rising orphanhood can be considerable, and countries need to track levels of orphanhood in order to plan for needed services.

Numerator

Number of children under the age of 18 whose mother or father or both parents have died, as listed by survey respondents.

Denominator

All children under the age of 18, as listed by survey respondents.

Calculation

Number of children under the age of 18
whose mother or father or both parents have died, as listed by survey respondents
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x 100
All children under the age of 18, as listed by survey respondents

Method of measurement

In a population-based survey or a national census, respondents are asked the ages of all children in the household and whether the mothers and fathers of those children are alive. Those children who are currently under the age of 18 and whose mother or father or both parents have died are counted in the numerator.
 
The denominator consists of all children currently under the age of 18, as listed by respondents in the survey or census.
If the number of children living outside households is substantial (i.e., more than 5 per cent of children under the age of 18), two supplemental surveys should be considered to estimate: 1) the number of orphans living on the streets, and 2) the number of orphans living in institutions.

Measurement frequency

Biennial

Disaggregation

Gender: Male, Female

Type of orphan: Double, Paternal, Maternal

Explanation of the numerator
Explanation of the denominator
Strengths and weaknesses

Data on an increase in orphanhood can be a very powerful indication of the impact of an AIDS epidemic. Besides tracking the impact of AIDS deaths on communities, this indicator also has advocacy use.
 
One limitation of this measure is that it is not able to distinguish AIDS-related orphanhood from orphanhood due to other causes. Since young adult mortality was stable or falling in most countries for some years before the emergence of HIV, however, it is reasonable to assume that the bulk of any rise in orphanhood over baseline levels is attributable to HIV (assuming there is no other significant reason, such as armed conflict, for a high rate of young adult mortality).
Another limitation of this measure is that orphans may be undercounted. Orphans tend to be more mobile than other children, and this can make them difficult to identify when conducting surveys. Those most in need of care may be in child-headed households, and these households do not always qualify for inclusion in a household survey. Households often completely disintegrate following the death of a household head from AIDS, and children are frequently sent to live with relatives. Parental survival status may be unknown if the child has been separated from the parent for a long time. Because of this, the percentage of respondents indicating ‘don’t know’ should also be tabulated.

Further information