The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource
Follow Us Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Download Our App 
Professionals >> Visit The Body PROThe Body en Espanol
  • Email Email
  • Printable Single-Page Print-Friendly
  • Glossary Glossary

Press Release

Joint Report Details Escalating Global Orphans Crisis Due to AIDS

Number of Children Orphaned by AIDS Will Rise Dramatically

July 10, 2002

Barcelona -- A major international report released today finds that an already grim global orphan crisis is set to get much worse as more and more adults with children die from AIDS, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The report, Children on the Brink, calls for action at all levels to assist children, families and communities who are affected by the unprecedented emergency.

The report contains the broadest and most comprehensive statistics yet on the historical, current and projected number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. It finds more than 13.4 million children have lost one or both parents to the epidemic in the three regions studied, a number that will increase to 25 million by 2010. In addition to the millions of children orphaned by AIDS, millions more are being adversely affected by the disease.

Children on the Brink was released at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, and is the third in a series (earlier versions were published in 1997 and 2000). For the first time, the report is being published jointly by USAID, UNAIDS and UNICEF, with estimates developed by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. In addition to providing statistics on orphans from 88 countries, it identifies several trends:

  • Africa has the greatest proportion of children who are orphans. In 2001, 34 million children in sub-Saharan Africa were orphans, one-third of them due to AIDS. Because of AIDS, the number of orphans is increasing dramatically. By 2010, the number of orphans will reach 42 million. Twenty million of these children -- or almost 6 percent of all children in Africa -- will be orphaned due to AIDS.

  • Asia has the largest number of orphans. Due to Asia's large population, the number of orphans in Asia is much larger than in Africa. In 2001, there were 65 million orphans, with approximately 2 million of them orphaned due to AIDS. The populations in many Asian countries are so large, however, that even at a low prevalence, the number of people with HIV/AIDS threatens to surpass the numbers in some of the most severely affected African countries. Even a relatively small increase in prevalence could lead to even greater numbers of orphans due to AIDS.

  • Orphan populations are concentrated, reflecting broader trends in HIV prevalence and population. In 2001, 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 70 percent of the orphans. The three countries with the largest populations also had the most orphans -- Nigeria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the impact of AIDS will be felt even more acutely in countries with smaller populations, but higher HIV prevalence rates. In addition, within countries, orphan populations vary greatly based on concentration of HIV prevalence.

  • Number of orphans will continue to rise. Today's prevalence rates will largely determine the pattern of orphaning for the next decade. In countries where HIV/AIDS prevalence has recently escalated, the full impact on the estimated number of orphans has yet to emerge.

The new publication also discusses the devastating impact AIDS has had on children, families and communities, and the need for a coordinated response to address this. "HIV/AIDS has created an orphans crisis," said Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "This unprecedented crisis will require radically scaled-up national, regional and community responses in the decades to come."

Children on the Brink also discusses five key strategies to assist children affected by AIDS, and urges that responses not overlook other children who are impacted by the epidemic. "We must respond to these devastating statistics by addressing the needs and rights of both orphans and vulnerable children whose parents are still living," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "Countries that have high rates of orphaning due to AIDS also have high levels of children seriously impacted by the epidemic, such as those with ill parents or living in households that have taken in orphans. They are often just as vulnerable."

At a press conference in Barcelona, programs that have successfully helped children were also discussed, and USAID distributed a summary of its 75 programs in 22 countries that work with children affected by AIDS. "Communities with a high proportion of orphans require urgent assistance," said Anne Peterson, USAID's assistant administrator for global health. "Responses need to be focused and scaled up in communities with high proportions of orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS. And communities with emerging orphan issues need to prepare now for the upcoming challenges."

USAID is the world's leader in providing funding to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Since 1986, it has provided over $2.3 billion for prevention, care and treatment programs in over 50 countries around the world. Information on USAID's HIV/AIDS programs is available at

As the main advocate for global action on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS leads, strengthens and supports an expanded response aimed at preventing the transmission of HIV, providing care and support, reducing the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV/AIDS, and alleviating the impact of the epidemic.

UNICEF is the United Nations agency responsible for the rights and welfare of children, with offices in 161 countries worldwide. Because HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects the young, UNICEF has named HIV/AIDS one of its five key priorities for the coming years. The organization is concentrating its work in: prevention among young people, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and care and support for children impacted by the pandemic.

Children on the Brink is available at and at

For more information, please contact Gabrielle Bushman, USAID, US, (+1) 659 652 221 (mobile); Anne Winter, UNAIDS, Swiss, (+41 79) 213 4312 or Liza Barrie, UNICEF, US, (+1) 646 207 5178 (mobile).

  • Email Email
  • Printable Single-Page Print-Friendly
  • Glossary Glossary

This article was provided by UNAIDS. Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
See Also
More on Children and HIV/AIDS in Africa