Washington Seminar Series: "Orphans in Africa"

On June 26, 2003 the Woodrow Wilson School held its final Washington Seminar Series event for the 2002/03 academic year.  Anne Case, Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and director of the Research Program in Development Studies, presented a lecture entitled "The Tragedy of HIV/AIDS and Africa's Forgotten Orphans" to an audience of over 100 people, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.

Julius Coles (MPA '66), president of the international development organization Africare and a member of the WWS Advisory Council introduced the event. Highlighting the seriousness of the AIDS pandemic, Coles noted "Most Americans don't have an idea of the magnitude of the crisis.  20 million people in Africa have died of AIDS...approximately 7m000 people are dying daily." Coles further added, "There are some 11 million orphans."

During her presentation, Professor Case noted that slightly "less than 10% of adults in sub-Saharan Africa are HIV positive." But in southern Africa, where Case conducts most of her research, 20-30% of adults are infected.  "When you think about 1 in 3 adults being HIV positive, it's almost more than you can bear," she commented.

Focusing on the problem of Africa's AIDS orphans, Case noted that orphans are significantly disadvantaged and at risk in at least one important dimension: school enrollment.  Although poorer children in Africa are less than likely to attend school, the lower enrollment of orphans is not accounted for solely by their lower wealth.  Rather, Case and her colleagues' research suggests that the special disadvantage orphans face is primarily due to their living arrangements.  "While children are put at material risk when their father dies, they are put at special risk when they lose their mothers," Case noted.  Across a large number of sub-Saharan African countries Case and her colleagues have found that the degree of relatedness between orphans and their adult caregivers is highly predictive of children's outcomes.

A video webcast of the event is available for viewing in Real Player format:

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