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Challenges and coping strategies of orphaned children in Tanzania who are not adequately cared for by adults

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Orphaned children in poor rural communities sometimes have no adult who is able to care for them or else the adult caregiver is not able to provide adequate care. Tanzania remains one of the poorest countries in the world, and poverty frequently constrains foster care. Although HIV prevalence is declining, AIDS is still a major cause of orphaning. This article explores the challenges and coping strategies accompanying two possible life trajectories for orphaned children without adequate adult care: 1) that they remain in rural areas in child-headed households, or 2) that they are trafficked to an urban area. Antonovsky's salutogenic model is used as the theoretical framework. The data come from two separate phenomenological studies with vulnerable children. In the first study, in-depth interviews were held with 12 orphaned children in a poor rural area; data concerning three child heads of households are included here. In the second study, 15 girls who were trafficked from rural areas to Dar es Salaam gave extended life-history narrations; data are included for nine of the girls who were orphaned. Loss of parents, a lack of cash, and the need to balance school attendance with food production were chronic stressors for the children heading households, while resources included income-generation strategies and the ability to negotiate with teachers for time to cultivate. For the trafficked girls chronic stressors included exploitation, long working hours, little or no pay, isolation and rape. Resources for them, although limited, included faith networks and neighbours; escape from the exploitative situation frequently involved external help. We conclude that given physical and social assets the child-headed households were able to cope with the challenges of caring for themselves and a younger child, but isolation and dependency on employers made it difficult for the trafficked girls to cope with this exploitation. The salutogenic model proved a useful tool in analysing the coping strategies of children living without adequate adult care.

Keywords: agency; care and support; child wellbeing; child-headed households; developing countries; girls; orphans and vulnerable children; salutogenic model; sub-Saharan Africa; trafficked children

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Health Promotion and Development, University of Bergen, Christiesgt. 13 5015, Bergen, Norway

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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