Protective and mental health services critical for orphans worldwide

Mar 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study by Duke University researchers calls for increased support, protection and appropriate mental health services for orphaned and abandoned children on a global scale.

Published in the , the study of more than 1,200 orphaned and abandoned children across five low- and middle-income countries is one of the first to identify and quantify violence, physical and as other potentially traumatic events endured by orphans, after having lost one or both parents.

Led by Kathryn Whetten, director of the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at the Duke Global Health Institute, the study shows that 98 percent of the orphaned and abandoned children surveyed had experienced more potentially traumatic events than “simply” the loss of their parent, with more than half experiencing four or more such events.

Children reported such traumatic events as physical and/or sexual abuse, the death of other family members and witnessing family violence. The study found increased traumatic events during childhood were linked to statistically significant increases in anxiety and emotional and behavioral difficulties that can last into adulthood and result in poor performance in school.

Researchers suggest that further traumatic events could be averted with early and community-wide interventions and mental health care. The study indicates children and caregivers are willing to discuss these events with trained interviewers.

Authors of the paper point to the need for protection policies and development of coping skills for both girls and boys, since their data shows young boys are just as vulnerable as girls for experiencing all forms of traumatic events, including abuse. Children who have lost both are considered most vulnerable and appear to be most negatively affected by repeated exposure to potentially traumatic events.

With an estimated 150 million orphaned and abandoned children worldwide, these research findings are particularly relevant for ensuring this group’s overall long-term health and well-being.

“We know that increased rates of childhood abuse result in increased substance abuse and high risk sexual activity later in life,” Whetten said. “If this occurs within the population of orphaned and abandoned children, it will result in a very large cohort of children who will be at a higher risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases, and reduced health promotion activities.

So, our study has important policy implications for clearly laying out the needs of orphaned and abandoned children early, before the situation escalates in adulthood.”

A recent conference hosted by the United State Agency for International Development (USAID) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) stressed the need for orphaned and abandoned children to be cared for in family settings around the world. The conference also recognized that social welfare and child protection organizations in low- and middle-income countries are poorly funded and not well-respected.

“It is clear that food, water, shelter, educational support and health care services are necessary, but that’s not sufficient for the orphan population. The well-being of these children depends on their physical and emotional safety, and they need protection,” Whetten said.

“Sustainable national social service systems and others social service agencies need to be strengthened to be able to ensure that orphaned and abandoned children are able to live in safe environments. While we have done much to strengthen health care systems and it is a continued focus with broad-based support, we must not neglect protective systems.”

Explore further: The hunt for botanicals

More information: A copy of the study is available at www.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/jts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study finds orphanages are viable options for some children

Dec 18, 2009

A Duke University study of more than 3,000 orphaned and abandoned children in five Asian and African countries has found that children in institutional orphanages fare as well or better than those who live in the community.

Afghani children suffering from post-traumatic stress

Jun 23, 2009

Children who live in Afghanistan are particularly affected every day by a multitude of war time stressors which increase the likelihood of developing PTSD: trauma, child labor, and family and military violence. On a daily ...

The hidden impact of aids on South African children

Dec 01, 2010

December 1st is World AIDS day. There are 33.4 million people worldwide living with HIV, 67per cent in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. In South Africa alone, 5.6 million people are HIV-positive, with only 22 per cent having ...

Recommended for you

The hunt for botanicals

15 hours ago

Herbal medicine can be a double-edged sword and should be more rigorously investigated for both its beneficial and harmful effects, say researchers writing in a special supplement of Science.

Mozambique decriminalises abortion to stem maternal deaths

17 hours ago

Mozambique has passed a law permitting women to terminate unwanted pregnancies under specified conditions, a move hailed by activists in a country where clandestine abortions account for a large number of maternal deaths.

Infertility, surrogacy in India

17 hours ago

Infertility is a growing problem worldwide. A World Health Organization report estimates that 60-to-80 million couples worldwide currently suffer from infertility.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JOHNSPEAKS
not rated yet Mar 26, 2011
The children in undeveloped countries suffer enough without suffering additional inhuman torture by the mental health industry? The mental health industry causes inhuman pain and suffering and false hope because of inhuman experimentation with antipsychotic drugs with horrendous side effects? Medical experimentation with -Deep Brain Stimulation- and or -Deep Sleep Therapy- and or -Electroshock Therapy- and or -Lobotomy- etc.? Children should not be brain washed into accepting this kind of torture and pain and suffering and false hope and then -Suicide- to end their suffering? Think twice before -You- or your children get involved with the mental health industry?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.