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Original Research

A study of descriptive data for orphans and non-orphans on key criteria of economic vulnerability in two municipalities in South Africa

Donald Skinner, Carla Sharp, Sean Jooste, Sakhumzi Mfecane, Leickness Simbayi
Curationis | Vol 36, No 1 | a105 | DOI: | © 2013 Donald Skinner, Carla Sharp, Sean Jooste, Sakhumzi Mfecane, Leickness Simbayi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 March 2012 | Published: 07 May 2013

About the author(s)

Donald Skinner, Research on Health and Society, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Carla Sharp, Department of Psychology, University of Houston, United States
Sean Jooste, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa
Sakhumzi Mfecane, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Leickness Simbayi, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa


Background: It is generally assumed that orphan status increases the risk to children of a range of negative outcomes. In South Africa, death of parents due to HIV-related illness is contributing to a rapid increase in the prevalence of orphans. This paper presents descriptive data from two South African communities, namely Kopanong, in the Free State and Kanana in the North West province, characterising the differences between orphans (double, maternal and paternal) and non-orphans on key criteria of social vulnerability.

Objectives: The objective was to obtain a better understanding of how different types of orphans and non-orphans may differ in these key areas as a crucial starting point for addressing the devastating consequences the AIDS epidemic has on these children’s lives. While the study focuses on two specific areas these will provide insight into the general situation of orphans in South Africa.

Methods: A cross-sectional census survey was conducted in the two communities of Kopanong, comprising n = 5254 households and Kanana, comprising n = 12 984 households.

Results: In Kopanong, 8.2% of children had lost both parents, 19.1% had lost their father and 6.5% their mother only, whilst in Kanana the results were 6.5%, 28.1% and 3.7% respectively. Loss of both parents appeared to have a consistent impact on material need, including access to food, clothing and essential services, whilst loss of a single parent seems to have a more variable impact. At present, there are very few child headed households, but this constitutes a risk in the longer term.

Conclusions: Orphans appear to be more vulnerable in terms of material need. Children assessed in this study as being most in need were not accessing adequately many services directed at them. There is a need to extend understanding and measurement of emotional need and abuse.



poverty; HIV; AIDS; children; orphans


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