Orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Crisis, the Interventions, and the Anthropologist

Response to the orphan crisis in sub-Saharan Africa has focused mainly on mobilizing and distributing material resources to households with orphans. Only a few anthropologists have interrogated the frameworks and values on which the projects for orphans are based. In this paper, I analyze the trends in foster-care research in Africa and suggest that current ethnographic data on foster-care practices do not adequately reflect the changing context of fostering in Africa. There is a need for fresh anthropological evidence on fostering because of death. It is only when new data are generated that effective and culturally sensitive programs for orphans and the people who are directly responsible for their well-being can be developed.