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Morbidity profile and physical health status of orphans and vulnerable children in selected orphanages in Ibadan, Nigeria

02 October 2023
Volume 4 · Issue 5



Orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) are prone to poor health outcomes when compared to other children in society.


This study assessed the morbidity profile and physical health status of OVC in orphanages.


A descriptive cross-sectional design was employed and multistage sampling technique was used to select 384 OVC from the orphanages. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data on morbidity profile while a head-to-toe assessment checklist and the body mass index (BMI) were used to assess their physical health status. Analysis was done using descriptive and inferential statistics at a significant level of 0.05.


Results showed that the most prevalent health problems experienced by OVC were headaches, respiratory infections, and malaria. The study further revealed that 44.8%, 29.9% and 25.3% of respondents had respectively fair, poor and good physical health.


A substantial proportion of OVC have a fair and poor physical health status and the majority are underweight.

Children make up 2.3 billion of the 7.8 billion people in the world (Fenz and Hamel, 2019; UN, 2019) and some of these children are orphans and vulnerable. Although there is no current data about the estimated number of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in the world, UNICEF (2017) estimated their number to be nearly 140 million in 2015. Africa is said to be home to 52 million of these orphans and vulnerable children (UNICEF, 2017).

The global occurrence and prevalence of adversities such as chronic poverty, acute and chronic illnesses, war, violence, conflict, road traffic accidents, HIV/AIDS (Arora et al, 2015; Kogo, 2018) and COVID-19 (Save the Children and UNICEF, 2020) have contributed to the increase in the number of orphans and vulnerable children. This increase constitutes a threat to the attainment of the Sustainable Developmental Goal 3 (Kogo, 2018). While it may be expected in some parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, for children who lack parental care to be taken care of by the extended family, the high level of poverty, urbanisation and the high population of OVC have put a strain on the ability of some extended families to take up responsibility for the children who have lost their parents (Huynh et al, 2019). A significant proportion of such children therefore find solace in residential institutions such as orphanages (Assim, 2013; Huynh et al, 2019). Batha (2018) reported that 8 million children are estimated to live in orphanages and other institutions worldwide. This is almost four times what was reported 4 years earlier, where children in the orphanages were estimated at 2.2 million (FAI, 2014). In Nigeria, residential institutions such as orphanages are one of the most developed forms of formal alternative care available for children without parental care (Connelly and Ikpaahindi, 2016) despite its effect on children's social, emotional and cognitive development. In the context of new realities of family life in the study setting, the emergence of ‘social orphans’ is challenging. This concept is used to describe children who are neglected or abandoned by their own parents even though they are alive. Social orphanhood is associated with children suffering from parental negligence and deprivation due to their parents' failure or inability to perform their duties (Carter, 2017; Huynh, 2019). This ultimately creates peculiar vulnerability and further increases the number of children seeking refuge in residential care.

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