Children comprise the largest proportion of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. Of these, millions are orphaned. Orphanhood increases the likelihood of growing up in poverty, dropping out of school, and becoming infected with HIV. Therefore, programs aimed at securing a healthy developmental trajectory for these orphaned children are desperately needed. We conducted a two-arm cluster-randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a family-level economic strengthening intervention with regard to school attendance, school grades, and self-esteem in AIDS-orphaned adolescents aged 12–16 years from 10 public rural primary schools in southern Uganda. Children were randomly assigned to receive usual care (counseling, school uniforms, school lunch, notebooks, and textbooks), “bolstered” with mentorship from a near-peer (control condition, n = 167), or to receive bolstered usual care plus a family-level economic strengthening intervention in the form of a matched Child Savings Account (Suubi-Maka treatment arm, n = 179). The two groups did not differ at baseline, but 24 months later, children in the Suubi-Maka treatment arm reported significantly better educational outcomes, lower levels of hopelessness, and higher levels of self-concept compared to participants in the control condition. Our study contributes to the ongoing debate on how to address the developmental impacts of the increasing numbers of orphaned and vulnerable children and adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, especially those affected by HIV/AIDS. Our findings indicate that innovative family-level economic strengthening programs, over and above bolstered usual care that includes psychosocial interventions for young people, may have positive developmental impacts related to education, health, and psychosocial functioning.
Prevention Science – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 1, 2015
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