Summer University in Social Work 

The Label ‘Orphan and Vulnerable Children’ (OVC) and the African Child: A Conversation

Prof. Lombe, M., Boston College School of Social Work, USA, Mabikke, H. MSW, Enelamah, N.V., M.Ed.

The issue of HIV/AIDS and its impact has received substantial attention worldwide. Considerable progress has been made on the scientific front; effort has been devoted on preventing and controlling opportunistic diseases associated with HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, the number of people newly infected with HIV and AIDS has declined by about 58% (UNAIDS, 2015). Furthermore, the number of AIDS-related deaths has decreased from 2.3 million in 2005 to about 1.2 million in 2014 (UNAIDS, 2015). Despite this, the consequence of the epidemic, especially in countries where mechanisms for prevention, treatment and care are limited, continues to be felt. The unprecedented numbers of adult deaths, inability of the extended family to cope, and high levels of poverty have had a negative effect on the welfare of children (Stover et al., 2008). Affected children often lack protection and are at risk for exploitation, maltreatment and other forms of abuses. Our discussion will focus specifically on sub-Saharan Africa, a region severely impacted by the pandemic. We direct attention on the label ‘Orphan and Vulnerable Children’ (OVC) which has been utilized to help identify affected children, call attention to the gravity of their situation and ensure that resources and services reach those most in need (Handa, Devereux & Webb, 2010). Drawing upon labeling literature, OVC policies and programing as well as Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), we highlight ethical dilemmas in OVC programming, lessons learned and implications for practice, policy and scholarship.


OVC, Labelling, Systems of care, Policy, Social Work Practice

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