Primary Source

UNICEF Data on Orphans by Region to 2010

  • Chart of estimated number of orphans
  • Chart of number of orphans


The definition of an orphan for statistical purposes is a child under 18 years old who has lost one or both parents. A single orphan is a child who has lost one parent, a double orphan is a child who lost both parents. A maternal orphan is a child whose mother died, while a paternal orphan has lost the father. Crises such as disease or famine that affect children increase the rate of growth of orphans in the population. For statistical purposes, children are no longer considered orphans after they reach 18 years of age. Therefore, the number of orphans in a population group increases if the number of children losing their parents exceeds the number of orphans turning 18, causing the percentage of orphans in that population to rise also.

The data in the two charts were compiled and published by UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, drawn from numerous organizations concerned with the global AIDS/HIV epidemic. As the bar graph shows, while the number of orphans in Asia has declined during the period from 1990 to 2010 (the latter based on projections), and has remained fairly stable in Latin America and the Caribbean, there has been a steady increase in the number of orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa. Data is not given for the number of children in Asia who have been orphaned by HIV and other causes, but that figure is likely significant.

Figures for Africa show that in the benchmark years of 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005, the percentage of children orphaned in sub-Saharan African countries as a result of AIDS rose sharply from 1% to 7% to 17% to 25%, and is projected to reach 30% of all orphans by 2010. Among them are over 10 million children who have lost both parents. AIDS is the leading cause of death among adults ages 15-59, and it has produced 12 million orphans in the region. The rates of HIV deaths are not uniform across Sub-Saharan Africa, but are much higher in southern Africa, where as many as 15% of all children are orphans. Behind these figures is a tremendous toll of human suffering. Older children may act as caregivers for their parents or siblings who are ill, or grandparents may have to raise their grandchildren. Poor nutrition, inability to attend school, inability to concentrate, emotional trauma and depression are among the most serious effects, and children whose families have been touched by AIDS may also be stigmatized by others, further worsening these effects.

The United Nations Children's Fund, Africa's Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations


The United Nations Children's Fund, Africa's Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations: Children Affected by Aids, "Africas_Orphaned_and_Vulnerable_Generations_Children_Affected_by_AIDS.pdf (application/pdf Object)," (accessed July 14, 2009). Annotated by Susan Douglass.

How to Cite This Source
UNICEF Data on Orphans by Region to 2010 in World History Commons,