New Estimates for Global Orphan Numbers

Our friend Dr. Susan Hillis of the CDC is one of the world’s top researchers on the relationship between HIV/AIDS and a host of issues facing orphans.  (Incidentally, she’ll be presenting at Summit VI on this topic in April.)  Yesterday, Dr. Hillis shared with us the just-released U.S. government assessment on orphans and vulnerability children, which was delivered to Congress Wednesday.

If you aren’t tripped up by its 17-word title, the report delivers highly-important data and analysis of the global orphan crisis.  No doubt, there will be some debate regarding how and why the U.S. government numbers differ from UNICEF projections.  (Ultimately, both the U.S. and the U.N. numbers are simply thoughtful, well-informed estimates.)  And, at times the report seems to make arguments regarding root causes of the orphan crisis that may go a bit beyond what the data empirically prove.  What is indubitable, however, is that the need remains extreme.   Key data points from the report include:

  • Total global orphan estimates for 2008 are 163 million (Children having lost one or both parents).
  • Of these, an estimated 55.3 million have lost a mother and 126 million have lost a father.
  • An estimated 18.3 million children have lost both parents.

As explored in prior blog posts, numbers like these will rarely inspire individuals to action.  If anything, they are paralyzing.  But it is still vital that those leading efforts to address the needs of orphans understand the scope of global need…even as we focus motivational messages and our own actions on specific situations and children.  Ultimately, one statistic looms above all the others:  it only takes one caring individual to make a life-long difference for an orphan.