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Conclusion and recommendations

In the concluding section of this literature review, it should be reiterated that there are 12.3 million orphans due to HIV/AIDS (2003 estimate) in sub-Saharan Africa and that this number will continue to rise in the coming years. This phenomenon has broken down and reconstructed intergenerational solidarity, which played a vital role in supporting children. This flood of orphans due to the AIDS epidemic has saturated these support systems and has led to stigmatisation that victimizes these children. Thus, this alarming situation has intensified the vulnerability of those who are most vulnerable: children.

Communities and families are the first in line to respond to the orphan crisis given that African governments and the international community have been slow to consider this problem with accordingly weak current policies and actions for orphans and vulnerable children. Even if this response is still imperfect, there is a reorganization of intergenerational solidarity within communities and families in order to adapt to the dramatic consequences of the AIDS epidemic.

The lack of research in this domain remains a concern particularly in terms of families’ and communities’ commitment to support orphans and vulnerable children in an HIV/AIDS context. Moreover, research is needed on questions surrounding the definition of orphans and vulnerable children as well as the stigma that victimizes them within communities, and on orphans and vulnerable children in a context of crisis.

The following issues are research priorities that should be explored by researchers in collaboration with development actors:

  • Strengthen the capacity of communities and families to improve their involvement in actions. The community is the first response against social stigmatisation and for the support of orphans and vulnerable children due to HIV/AIDS. Thus interventions should be based on existing support mechanisms by strengthening the capacity of communities and families and mobilising community-based responses and alternative strategies such as commitments of local and/or faith-based communities, fostering children outside the extended family, adoption, etc.
  • Promote the engagement of local leaders, including traditional and religious leaders. It is important to further understand and measure the impact of these actors within communities.

  • Conduct situational analysis by country for improved action planning according to the specific needs of each context.
  • Promote collaboration, multidisciplinary partnership, and multisectoral mobilisation between researchers, political stakeholders, and NGOs—involved in education, health, family, justice, public and private partnership, and the media—in the fight against HIV/AIDS and more particularly to protect and care for orphans and vulnerable children in a context of HIV/AIDS.

  • Enforce laws to protect children (adoption, affiliation, Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter, birth registration, civil registration, and inheritance). Research on judicial and legal issues must be deepened to guide social and political actions to strengthen children’s protection.

  • Foster the emergence of political will at state-level for support of orphans and vulnerable children in a context of HIV/AIDS.

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| Acknowledgments |