Young caregivers in the context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa

Elsbeth Robson, Nicola Ansell, Ulli S. Huber, William T.S. Gould, Lorraine van Blerk

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    130 Citations (Scopus)


    Against a background of rising adult mortality and morbidity in the context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, this paper provides both quantitative and qualitative evidence for the existence of a largely neglected group of young people with increased responsibility for caregiving. Using questionnaire surveys, focus groups, storyboards and in-depth interviews in three studies across Southern and Eastern Africa some young people in Lesotho, Tanzania and Zimbabwe are found to devote considerable time and energy to caring for sick members of their households. Examination of the tasks carried out by these youngsters finds them to be burdened beyond usual familial and societal expectations of children's 'normal' contributions to the reproduction of households via domestic chores and suchlike. It is concluded that these young people can be described as 'young carers'. The three studies are presented to illuminate different socio-spatial aspects of caregiving by young people. First, using qualitative data from Lesotho the range of caring tasks young caregivers perform for care recipients - usually a grandmother, parent, or sibling - is identified. Second, the impact caregiving responsibilities have on children's primary school attendance is examined using survey data from Tanzania. Third, the wider negative and positive impacts of caregiving including loss of friends and gaining of emotional maturity for young carers and their households is explored with in-depth individual interviews from Zimbabwe. Finally, suggestions are made for further research to deepen understanding of the geographies of caring within the context of the population geographies of the HIV/ AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)93-111
    Number of pages19
    JournalPopulation, Space and Place
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


    • Caregiving
    • Children
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Sub-Saharan Africa
    • Young people

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Demography
    • Geography, Planning and Development


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