Report predicts 20 million AIDS orphans in Africa by 2010

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 27 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1245
  1. Fiona Fleck
  1. Geneva

    The number of children left as orphans because their parents have died from AIDS related diseases in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to almost double–to 20 million–over the next seven years and could account for as many as 12% of all the region's children, says a new Unicef report.

    Embedded Image

    John, aged 9, whose parents died of AIDS related TB, sits with his grandmother Alim a Niymku at her home in Tanzania


    The report, Africa's Orphaned Generations, published this week, said that the new findings signal dire consequences ahead for a region already devastated by the pandemic. It said that many affected countries still have no national policy to tackle the growing needs of AIDS orphans, and this could have grave consequences not just for the children but for communities and society as a whole.

    Many households have become poorer owing to the pandemic, and increasing numbers of families are headed by women and grandparents and are struggling to care for these children.

    “The international community must not shy away from this problem and must substantially increase support to protect AIDS orphans from the pain and isolation–sometimes even abuse–that can result from the loss of one or both parents,” said David Bull, the executive director of Unicef in the United Kingdom.

    The report predicted that the number of AIDS orphans would rise from an estimated 11 million in 2001 to 20 million in 2010 as a result of the high proportion of adults with HIV or AIDS and the failure to deliver antiretroviral treatment to sub-Saharan Africa. According to Unicef and UNAIDS figures for 2003, only 1% of some 29 million people with HIV or AIDS in the region are receiving this treatment.

    Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, which have some of the world's highest prevalence rates of AIDS and HIV, and Zimbabwe are expected to have the most AIDS orphans. The report said that a fifth of children in these countries were likely to be AIDS orphans in 2010.

    Unicef found that in 1990 about 3.5% of orphans had lost a mother, father, or both parents to the AIDS pandemic. By 2001 this figure had risen to 32%, but by 2010 more than half the region's orphans are expected to be AIDS orphans, the report said.

    “Orphans are disadvantaged in numerous ways. In addition to the trauma of witnessing the sickness and death of their parents, they are likely to be poorer and less healthy than non-orphans,” Mr Bull said.

    The report is available at>

    View Abstract

    Sign in

    Log in through your institution