the genocide and civil war in Rwanda in 1994, and in the refugee
crisis that followed, thousands of children were separated from
their parents and relatives. (See the History section of this site
for more details).
of these 'unaccompanied' children were orphans whose parents had
been killed in the genocide or had died of disease in refugee camps.
Early numbers estimated there were over 85,000 child families with
no parents or relatives to care for them. In half of these families
the oldest child, with no choice but to take responsibility, was
13 years old or younger.
1994 relief agencies have been reuniting some children with their
parents and relatives, or with foster families like neighbours.
But the situation is not much better today. Other children have
become orphans because their only remaining parent has died of sickness
such as malaria or tuberculosis. AIDS has been spreading rapidly
too, adding to the number of children left without parents.
the estimated number of child families is 65,000 - about 300,000
children altogether. Teenage girls care for three out of four of
these families. Some families have up to six children, often including
other relatives or even neighbours.