Perspectives of health in Rwandan child headed households




Hardy, Michelle H.

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This thesis focuses on the perceptions and experiences of Rwandan children living in rural child headed households regarding malaria, and how these perceptions and experiences compare to their other health concerns. Despite the attention given to malaria by the international community and the Rwandan government, and the numerous studies that have documented the material and socioeconomic poverty that characterizes the lives of child headed households, Rwandan children’s perspectives regarding their health have rarely been elicited. Through the use of drawing activities and semi-structured interviews with 37 children between the ages of six to eighteen years, living in 14 child headed households, I explore how poverty shapes their understandings, experiences and responses to malaria, and the variation in these perceptions and experiences based on age and gender. Malaria, although a concern for the children, is simply one of many challenges they face in a context characterised by poverty, and structured risk to poor health outcomes. These barriers, along with the other health concerns expressed by the children, receive little attention from informal and organised networks of support, which results in the children bearing a disproportionate burden of social suffering. Insight into structural violence is gained through interviews with NGOs who have or are currently working with child headed households. These interviews illustrate how larger socio-political and economic forces shape the lived reality of the children. Additionally, interviews with community members who offer support to the children illustrate how social ideologies affect local level perceptions and responses to child headed households.



Children, Health Care, Rwanda, Orphans, Malaria, Poverty, Age, Gender, Child Headed Households, Structural Violence, Social Suffering, Agency