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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
3243.0: Monday, December 12, 2005 - Board 10

Abstract #117799

Psychosocial issues facing orphan-headed households in Rwanda

Lisanne Brown, MPH, PhD1, Leslie M. Snider, MD, MPH2, Tonya R. Thurman, MPH, PhD student3, Joseph Ntaganira, MD4, Neil Boris, MD5, Eleazar Mugarira6, and Edward Kalisa6. (1) Department of International Health and Development, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal Street, Suite 2200, New Orleans, LA 70112, 504-988-1978, br71365@tulane.edu, (2) International Health and Development, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal Street, Suite 2200, New Orleans, LA 70112, (3) Tulane School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal St, Office # 2253, New Orleans, LA 70112, (4) Rwanda School of Public Health, University of Rwanda, Butare, Rwanda, (5) Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal St., TB52, New Orleans, LA 70112, (6) World Vision Rwanda, Kigali-urban WVR office, Kigali, Rwanda

Purpose: Those concerned with the needs of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) increasingly recognize the significance of psychological and social aspects of well-being. However, little is empirically known about their psychosocial problems. Methods: A survey was conducted with 692 youth age 13-24 living without an adult, most of whom are double orphaned and many of whom care for younger siblings. Results: Many reported difficulties in knowing how to care for themselves and their siblings (58%) and feeling constantly under strain (30%). They suffered from severe grief over their parent's death (e.g., 44% reported feeling that life is meaningless since the death). Frequent feelings of depression (32%) and sadness (47%) in the week preceding the survey were reported and some admitted to having contemplated suicide in the two months preceding the survey (28%). They reported feeling lonely (32%) and isolated from their communities (51%) and lacking in support (e.g., 85% feel that the only adults who care about them are benefactors). Conclusion: While OVC must have basic needs to survive, they need more. Though few may require clinical psychiatric care, most just need things that are free—such as someone to talk to, someone to teach them skills, someone to protect and defend them and, most of all, to feel that the community cares about them. This love, support and comfort cannot come from an NGO, it must come from within their community. However, NGO's can work to promote and elicit such support from the neighbors, family and friends of OVC.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Vulnerable Populations, Child/Adolescent Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

Global Perspectives on HIV/AIDS

The 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition (December 10-14, 2005) of APHA