Highly Vulnerable Children Research Center

Chronic Illness in the Home: Implications for Children in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Living with someone who is chronically ill impacts children’s wellbeing in a number of ways and can exacerbate vulnerability.  Programs for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) have responded by expanding their enrollment to include children living with sick parents or caregivers, regardless of orphan status. However, relatively little is known about these children’s experiences, and thus about how best to design and implement effective responses.  The findings presented here are drawn from the baseline assessment of a longitudinal study designed to assess the efficacy of a range of OVC interventions (study methodology and sample characteristics described in greater detail in the brief below). Chronic illness was self-reported and defined as having had an illness for three or more consecutive months during the past year.  Caregivers were also asked to report on chronic illness and/or deaths among other household members.

Chronic illness was prevalent: over one-third of children in the study had an ill primary caregiver.  Chronic illness likely goes beyond HIV and AIDS to include health conditions of the elderly.  A high proportion of caregivers with a chronic illness also unmet need for critical health services.  Ill caregivers were twice as likely as those without chronic illness to have suffered psychosocial distress.  Children living with an ill household member were at greater risk than others for a variety of adverse outcomes.

Suggested Citation: Kidman, R., & Thurman T.R. (2011). Chronic Illness in the Home: Implications for Children in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. New Orleans, Louisiana: Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

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