Highly Vulnerable Children Research Center

Barriers to the community support of orphans and vulnerable youth in Rwanda

A consistent theme in the literature on interventions for orphans and vulnerable children is the need for community-based care. However, a number of socio-cultural factors may impede community response. In this study, mixed methods are used to elucidate community-level barriers to care for orphans and vulnerable youth in Rwanda. Data from a large survey of youth heads of household on perceptions of marginalization from the community and the factors predicting that marginalization are considered in light of additional data from a survey of adults who volunteered to mentor these youth and focus groups with both community adults and youth heads of household. Results highlight how orphans’ impoverished condition, cause of parents’ death, and community perceptions of orphan behavior play a role in the marginalization of orphaned youth in Rwanda. Evidence is also offered to show that targeting humanitarian assistance to vulnerable youth may inadvertently lessen the level of community support they receive and contribute to their marginalization. The implications of these data for community-based program approaches are discussed.

Citation:  Thurman, T.R., Snider, L., Boris, N.W., Kalisa, E., Nyirazinyoye, L., & Brown, L. (2008). Barriers to the community support of orphans and vulnerable youth in Rwanda. Social Science & Medicine. 67 (7), 1557–1567.