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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State Assesses Public Health Challenges of Orphans in Uganda Slums

Being an orphan in the slums of Kampala, Uganda comes with an increased likelihood of drug use, violence and suicide, according to a study led by researchers from the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

[Photo: Dr. Monica Swahn]

Out of 444 youth involved in the study, nearly 45 percent of orphans reported using alcohol and 42 percent reported having HIV or another sexually transmitted disease, according to data collecting from the 2011 Kampala Youth Survey. More than 77 percent of orphans reported feeling hopeless or sad and 40 percent reported having been a victim of violence. The data also showed orphans were roughly two times more likely than their peers whose parents are living to use drugs, perpetrate violence or attempt suicide.

Researchers said they hope their findings will help Kampala service centers provide programs to prevent drug use, violence perpetration, sexually transmitted diseases and suicide among orphans. The study is published in Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies in the article “Psychosocial health concerns among service-seeking orphans in the slums of Kampala.”

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to about 52 million orphans, comprising 37 percent of the world’s orphan population, the researchers noted. “While there are many pressing health concerns in sub-Saharan African, few are as devastating than the needs of the growing population of orphans and vulnerable children,” the researchers wrote.

The study also found that being an orphan was associated with reduced odds of experiencing parental abuse, which the researchers said they expected.

“It is possible that the majority of orphans experienced the death of their parents early in life, which is why a large proportion reported no parental abuse,” the researchers stated.

Social workers and peer educators with the Uganda Youth Development Link, which operates drop-in centers for disadvantaged youth, conducted the survey in May and June 2011 through face-to-face interviews.

The study’s lead author is Dr. Monica Swahn, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Georgia State University. The authors also include Rachel Culbreth, a public health Ph.D. student at Georgia State; Dr. Catherine Staton with Duke University; and Rogers Kasirye with the Uganda Youth Development Link in Kampala.