During 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).

Many 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.

Since 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.

Today 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.