Workshop 10: HIV and Child Mobility

HIV as a determinant of child mobility

February 2014, Durban, South Africa

To enhance knowledge of child fostering patterns, and ways in which children are affected by increased rates of marital dissolution in the wake of the HIV epidemic, we will:

  • calculate age-specific proportions of children living apart from their parents, classified by sex and survival of parent, and whether the parent or the child moved out of the household in which they were last co-resident
  • describe patterns of child mobility in each site including calculation of internal (inter-household moves within the site) and external (moves out of the site) migration rates by age and sex, and by reasons for child moving
  • examine the effect of i) parental HIV infection, ii) parental separation; iii) parental mortality on children’s mobility.
  • investigate the effect of mobility on child welfare as measured by household composition, parental co-residence, stability of fostering arrangements, age of care provider and child’s school attendance.

Studies of HIV impact on children generally measure orphanhood [144-148] but do not look at children separated from living parents, and only measure child welfare after the death of one or both parents [149-153], ignoring movements of children prompted by other HIV-related events, such as separation of parents, sickness resulting in inability to provide care or financial support [59,154-158]. The complex longitudinal data required to describe changes in a child’s family environment and welfare changes brought about by moves between households are collected during demographic surveillance, so the ALPHA network is well placed to contribute new knowledge in this area.

There are no comparative studies of child mobility in sub-Saharan Africa so this study will be of importance over and above our interest in HIV impact. This topic will require extensive preparatory work with data managers at each of the ALPHA sites, in order to complete record linkages for children who move between households independently of their parents. In some studies individuals acquire permanent identifying numbers (as opposed to household roster numbers) only when they reach an age that makes them eligible for HIV testing. The increased ability of ALPHA sites to follow children as well as adults moving from one household to another between survey rounds will be a “value-added” spin-off of this study topic. Our findings will provide better guidance to agencies involved in funding care for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.

There is a lack of awareness about the extent of child mobility in African communities, and short-term fostering arrangements which result in children living away from one or both parents even when the parents are alive. This research will show whether children from families affected by HIV have a more unsettled life prior to becoming orphans, and whether fostering results in their living in households with a less balanced age- and sex-distribution of adult carers.

The ability of the network to produce cross-community comparisons in high and moderate HIV prevalence areas with differing norms concerning family size and structure allows us to identify factors governing the absorptive capacity of traditional extended families coping with additional childcare demands due to increasing levels of adult morbidity, mortality and marital dissolution.