Child-Headed Households

It is hard to imagine a nine or 10-year-old child assuming responsibility for a household that may include siblings, or an ailing parent or grandparent. Child-headed households are defined as households where minor children (under the age of 18) are leading the household. Swaziland is one country where, increasingly, children are stepping into the roles of parent  and provider.

The last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa, Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. It also has the highest .TB incidence in the world. In 2006, at the height of the pandemic, the prevalence in Swaziland was 39.2 percent. While significant improvements have been made, the prevalence rate of 27 percent still means that over one fourth of the population is affected.

Some child-heads of household are as young as nine years old. Children of child-headed households may be orphans or abandoned.  Some children may be in the presence of an adult who is unable to manage the household.

Traditional family safety nets cannot cope with the extent of need created by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Child-headed households:

  • Are vulnerable to abuse, abandonment, and disease
  • Have little or no access to healthcare, education, food and bare necessities
  • Are considered disposable because of the stigma of HIV/AIDS
  • Die young – having an average life expectancy of 33 years