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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


Impact of Aids on Older People in Africa: Zimbabwe Case Study


A Study by the World Health Organisation: Noncommunicable Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NPH), Ageing and Life Course (ALC). Zimbabwe was chosen for piloting the project because of its high HIV prevalence & existing strong NGO support.

Project Title: Developing & Validating a Methodology to Examine the Impact of HIV/AIDS on Older Caregivers

Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, University of Zimbabwe, HelpAge International, Department of Social Welfare, National AIDS Control Programme, the Central Statistics Office and WHO regional and country offices.

The main focus of the project is to "identify barriers that prevent older people from providing adequate & fulfilling care to their children dying from HIV/AIDS & subsequently, to their orphaned grandchildren". The project is set in 4 countries: Zimbabwe, Ghana, South Africa & Tanzania & hopes to be the driving force behind new policies & programmes "that would sustain older people as key assets in the care of the terminally ill patients & children orphaned by AIDS".



Preliminary Findings
Using qualitative & quantitative research methods, 810 households were interviewed & 32 key informants/focus group discussions were conducted. Of these, 79.3% were over age 50 & 2/3 were women. Of the ageing individuals interviewed, 52% were peasant farmers, 22.9% were unemployed, 14.9% were self-employed & 6.3% were homemakers. The remaining 3.9% were farm workers & unskilled workers.

The bulk of people caring for AIDS orphans are over 50 years old. In the age group of 50-54, 15% are the main caregivers of orphans; those 55-59 years yield 14% as the main caregivers; & in the group 60 & over, a staggering 71% are currently caring for orphans of their children dying of AIDS. In 84% of the households of older people interviewed, it was found that the older person was the main care giver of the terminally ill or of the orphans whose parents had died of AIDS; a tremendous burden so late in life. In these households, 40% are children orphaned by AIDS & 80% of the orphans are the grandchildren of the older care giver.

Initial findings suggest that "food & basic needs like blankets, clothing, the high cost of medical fees during illness, the inability to pay school fees for orphans, loss of economic support & diminished livelihood oportunities" are the main difficulties affecting the provision of care by the older care giver. Findings also indicated that the health of the ageing care giver has deteriorated as they are under serious physical & emotional stress with cases sited of "physical violence, stigma & abuse resulting from witchcraft accusations". Compounding the issue is the limited access to expensive health care for Zimbabweans due to "transport difficulties, stigmatisation of the disease & poor health staff attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS.

Working in close collaboration with Government departments, NGOs, academic institutions & other civil society organisations, the Ageing and Life Course team (ALC) is aiming to "facilitate processes to improve institutional & community understanding of the plight of older people & to target policy, programme & project initiatives that would strengthen the capacity of older people" as care providers to their HIV/AIDS sons & daughters & the orphaned children.

Voices of Older People: Are we listening?

"I am so afraid of what the future has in store for these orphans. If I were to die and leave them, who would look after them?" (62 year old woman, Bulawayo)

"Looking after orphans is like starting life all over again, because I have to work on the farm, clean the house, feed the children, buy school uniforms. I thought I would no longer do these things again. I am not sure if I have the energy to cope". (64 year old man, Makoni, Manicaland)

"The situation is very desperate; I am now forced to engage in selling illegal drugs to raise money to feed the orphans. I am no longer afraid of going to jail". (53 year old woman, Highfield, Harare)



IMPACT OF AIDS ON OLDER PEOPLE IN AFRICA: Zimbabwe Case Study; provided direct to The Communication Initiative.
Programme Coordinator: DR. A, KALACHE
Research and project officers: R, deGraft AGYARKO, and DR. P, KOWAL

For More Information Please Contact
Robert deGraft Agyarko
Ageing and Life Course (ALC)
World Health Organization, Geneva
20 Avenue Appia
CH 1211
Direct tel: (+41 22) 791 34 33, Fax: (+41 22) 791 48 39