"They don't care what happens to us." The situation of double orphans heading households in Rakai District, Uganda

Dalen, Nina; Nakitende, Ann Jacqueline; Musisi, Seggane
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p321
Academic Journal
Background: This article is based on information collected about the situation of double orphans who are heading households in Rakai District, Uganda. The information will be used as justification and guidance for planning actions to improve the situation of these and similar children. This research is thus the first step in an Action Research approach leading to specific interventions. The aim of this article is to describe the situation of these orphaned children, with an emphasis on the psychosocial challenges they face. Methods: The study involved interviews, focus group discussions, observations and narratives. Forty-three heads of sibling-headed households participated. Information derived from informal discussions with local leaders is also included. The responses were analyzed using a modified version of Giorgi's psychological phenomenological method as described by Malterud [1]. Results: Factors such as lack of material resources, including food and clothes, limited possibilities to attend school on a regular basis, vast responsibilities and reduced possibilities for social interaction all contribute to causing worries and challenges for the child heads of households. Most of the children claimed that they were stigmatized and, to a great extent, ignored and excluded from their community. The Local Council Secretary ("Chairman") seemed to be the person in the community most responsible and helpful, but some chairmen seemed not to care at all. The children requested counseling for themselves as well as for community members because they experienced lack of understanding from other children and from adult community members. Conclusion: The children experienced their situation as a huge and complex problem for themselves as well as for people in their villages. However, the situation might improve if actions focused on practical and psychological issues as well as on sensitization about the children's situation could be initiated. In addition to the fact that these children need adult guidance to become citizens who act in accordance with the expectations in their communities, material aid is important in order to reduce the children's experiences of being "different" and constantly experiencing survival anxieties.


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