49% of students had suicidal thoughts

49% of students who took part in a survey carried out by Zambia Orphans Aid had suicidal thoughts. 

Orphans and vulnerable children are at a higher risk of suffering adverse social, health and economic effects due to poverty because they lack the family structures to support them. 70% of students who took part in the survey reported they had lost family members in the past two-year period linking bereavement to poor mental health. Without families to support them orphans and vulnerable children need extra care and support, both practical and emotional, to fully participate in school and their community and to do the everyday things that most of us take for granted. 

Thelma, 16 years old said, “If you ask me if there is anything that makes me happy, I will say nothing makes me happy. There are a lot of things that make me sad. Firstly, my mother’s abusive language and character, and knowing she is HIV positive. At times she buys food for my young brother but not me. My mother was raped then she conceived me. I think this is the reason why she hates me so much. I don’t know who my father is. All this hurts me a lot and made me at one point think about not wanting to live anymore.”

Mental health and psychosocial support can help orphans and vulnerable children and their communities heal psychological wounds and rebuild social structures. It can help change people into active survivors rather than passive victims.

ZOA-UK, a small charity working to change the future for children in Zambia, has been awarded a UK aid grant from the UK Government’s Department for International Development. The grant will fund a project to:

  • train staff and volunteers in psychosocial counselling;
  • provide counselling to orphans and vulnerable children at home and at school
  • train orphans and vulnerable children in life skills to improve poor emotional health and social behaviour;
  • sensitize schools, teachers and peer educators about the challenges orphans and vulnerable children face.

Katy Dore, Executive Director of Zambia Orphans Aid UK said: “It’s shocking how many students in our survey felt that they didn’t want to live anymore. By addressing the mental health issues that so many orphans and vulnerable children experience we can improve their self-esteem and aspirations that in turn will reduce absenteeism and poor performance at school and help them transform their lives. We’re delighted to be able to implement this project with funding from the Government’s Small Charities Challenge Fund.”

International Development Minister, Baroness Sugg said: “Every child deserves to be safe, healthy and happy. That is why UK aid is supporting Zambia Orphans Aid UK to deliver essential counselling, build support networks and boost skills to help children get the best start in life.

“The Small Charities Challenge Fund makes it easier for small British charities like Zambia Orphans Aid UK to access UK aid, helping them to improve and save lives.”