The UNICEF definition of an orphan is a child who has lost one or both parents. This definition contradicts the western concept of an orphan, where a child has lost both parents to be considered an orphan. The UNICEF definition brings the number of orphans worldwide to just less than 150 million in 2016. This includes both children who have lost both parents and those who have only lost one parent but have another surviving parent.

Thirteen million of the 150 million children classified as orphans have lost both parents. The majority of orphans live with a surviving parent, grandparent, or other family member. Ninety-five percent of all orphans are over the age of five.

In the mid-1990s, UNICEF and other international organizations adopted the broader definition of orphan as the AIDS pandemic killed millions of parents worldwide, leaving an increasing number of children growing up without one or more parents. As a result of this phenomenon, the definition of an orphan evolved to encompass a ‘single orphan’ – the loss of one parent – and a ‘double orphan’ – the loss of both parents.

UNICEF’s experience and commitment to orphans and the changing landscape of the AIDS crisis led to global analysis of the current conditions of orphans and non-orphans. This analysis resulted in expanding the definition to focus less on orphan-hood and more on the conditions that rendered children vulnerable. These conditions include family ownership of property, the poverty level of the household, the child’s relationship with the rest of the family, and the current education level. UNICEF’s experience indicated that these conditions were the ones with the greatest need for support.

Armor of Hope Foundation supports programs that provide resources, care, and love for these vulnerable children. We look for partner organizations that can provide for the five domains that are fundamental for child development; physical, spiritual, educational, emotional, and social needs.