Depression is common among teenage and young adult orphans in Rwanda who head households and provide care for younger children, according to a survey conducted by researchers at Tulane University that was published last month in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the New York Times reports. Rwanda is thought to have the highest percentage of orphans worldwide, primarily because of HIV/AIDS and tribal genocide in 1994, according to the Times. Advertisement
Tulane researchers working with Rwanda's national School of Public Health surveyed 539 orphans ages 12 to 24 caring for others in a rural province. They found that 53% of respondents met the criteria for depression on a psychiatric screening scale. In addition, 76% said that their communities rejected orphans, 26% said that they had a close friend and about 40% said that life was meaningless or that they had lost their faith in God since their parents died. The survey also found that 77% were subsistence farmers and that 93% had fewer than six years of education. Almost half had eaten one meal daily in the last week, according to the survey.
Although orphans in several African countries are cared for by relatives or neighbors, "such systems are increasingly overwhelmed" in Rwanda, the authors wrote, adding that young people without parents or close adult relatives have to develop their own households or be homeless. The researchers said that large-scale programs are needed if the "next generation of youth is to thrive" in Rwanda (McNeil, New York Times, 9/9).
The survey is available online
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