Challenges and strategies for coping with orphan problems at family level: A case study of care givers in Bushenyi District.
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This study was undertaken to assess the challenges faced by families in caring for the rising number of orphans and coping strategies they use to mitigate the challenges. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques, the study was conducted among rural caretakers in Bushenyi district. Findings from the study were gathered through semi-structured interviews with 50 caretakers and 52 orphans as well as in-depth interviews with nine community leaders including eight local council leaders and the District Probation and Welfare Officer. The findings revealed that even in the face of severe socio-economic challenges, there is continued willingness by families to absorb orphans. In fact, some caretakers, particularly grandparents derive satisfaction from offering the care. However, in spite of this willingness, the study found out that orphan care in families is fraught with several challenges whose scale and complexity often exceed the capacity of the families to effectively mitigate. Consequently, most of the needs of orphans are either partially addressed or not addressed at all. To compound the challenges, majority of caretakers were elderly grandparents and surviving mothers, all depending on subsistence income. Although they were able to provide a secure environment for children, they were to a large extent unable to meet the orphans’ psychological, social and basic needs. With little resources at their disposal, caretakers’ efforts were devoted to meeting the basic survival needs of the orphans while ignoring investment in initiatives like skills building that ensure long term survival and sustainability. From the study findings, it can be concluded that while the generosity, commitment and endurance of the families to keep orphans within their traditional family systems even in the face of the most challenging situations was acknowledged, families were realistically not coping with the orphan problem. Findings indicate a reminiscence of a potentially volatile situation with families at the verge of giving way. Without external assistance, families can at the very best guarantee immediate survival for the children but cannot prepare them to be competitive in future. With the family still regarded as the most prominent current and future source of support for orphans, the study recommends that everything possible should be done to improve its economic capacity to be able to appropriately address the needs of orphans. Initiatives that strengthen the family’s capability to earn income, such as those that improve agricultural productivity, linking households to markets for their produce and support for micro-enterprises were highly recommended.