Various definitions have been used to identify who an orphan is. The most accepted definition of an orphan is a child who has lost one or both parents through death. However, the loss of parents has been extended to failure through desertion or abandonment and inability or unwillingness to provide care. In some parts of Nigeria, a child is not considered an orphan if the father is alive. In other aspects, a child is an orphan only if both parents are dead.
On the other hand, the definition of vulnerability varies from society to society. According to the National Guidelines and Standards of Practice on Orphans and Vulnerable Children, vulnerability is a state of being or likely to be in a risky situation where a person may suffer significant physical, emotional, or mental harm that could result in their human rights not being fulfilled.
A vulnerable child has been seen as one with little or no access to basic needs and rights. Such a child may have both parents but still be compromised in other ways. Nevertheless, there are levels of vulnerability depending on the child’s situation, as several factors contribute to a child’s exposure.
In an operational context, vulnerable children can be said to be those who are most likely to fall through the cracks of regular programs, or, in line with the social protection definition, vulnerable children are those who experience adverse outcomes, such as loss of their education, morbidity, and malnutrition, at a higher rate than their peers.
Categories of vulnerable children are orphans, children living with terminal or chronically ill parent(s) or caregiver, children on the street/child hawkers, children living with aged or frail grandparents, married children, neglected/abandoned children, children with HIV, children in child-headed homes, child beggars/destitute, internally displaced/separated children, child domestic servants, child sex workers, children with disability or whose parents are disabled, trafficked children, children in conflict with the law, children of migrant workers and children living with an unmarried teenage parent(s).
However, it has been noted that not all orphans are classified as vulnerable as they have adequate provisions for their welfare, either through adequately administered wills or by having relatives/caregivers who could provide the basic needs of life.
According to statistics published by Statista Research Department, about 13.2% of households in Nigeria had, as of 2018, children being raised with neither their mother nor their father present. In addition, 7.3% of all households had children with one dead parent and the unknown survival status of the other parent. As of today, with the impact of Covid-19, the number has increased.
Orphans and vulnerable children face several challenges in the areas of shelter, food, clothing, and education, which are essential. While efforts are being made to address these basic needs by the government and non-governmental organizations, these challenges persist.
Nevertheless, it has been noted that there is a need to focus not only on the immediate survival needs of orphans and vulnerable children but also on long-term developmental conditions such as skill acquisition, psychological needs and social protection, and health and household economic strengthening.
In conclusion, more effective efforts are required to address these challenges facing orphans and vulnerable children. We at NTF are on a mission to contribute to the practical steps needed to address these challenges.
Skinner, Donald & Tsheko, Nnunu & Mtero-Munyati, S. & Segwabe, M. & Chibatamoto, P. & Mfecane, Sakhumzi & Chandiwana, Brian & Nkomo, Nkululeko & Tlou, Sheila & Chitiyo, George. (2004). Defining orphaned and vulnerable children. AIDS and Behavior. 10. 619-625.
Nigerian OVC National Plan of Action is available at
http://www.africanchildforum.org/clr/policy%20per%20country/nigeria/nigeria_ovc_en.pdf accessed on 3/12/2021.
https://www.statista.com/statistics/1124446/households-with-orphans-and-foster-children-in-nigeria/ accessed on 3/12/2021.
The National Guidelines and Standards of Practice on Orphans and Vulnerable Children available at
https://bettercarenetwork.org/sites/default/files/attachments/National%20Guidelines%20and%20Standards%20of%20Practice%20on%20Orphans%20and%20Vulnerable%20Children.pdf accessed on 3/12/2021.