Rwanda is located in Central Africa and borders Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Uganda. This country occupies a total area of 26,338 square kilometers1 and has a population of 10,746,311,2 making it the most densely populated country in Africa.3 Children fourteen years of age or younger account for 42.7% of the population.4 This country is one of the poorest countries in the world,5 with 60% of its population below the poverty line.6 People living with HIV/AIDS number 150,000; the rate of prevalence of HIV/AIDS among adults is 2.8%.7 After the genocide of 1994, Rwanda had the “highest proportion of orphan children in the world.”8
According to 2007 estimates, 24.3% of Rwanda’s 3.4 million children, aged seventeen or younger, were orphans: 15.4% were maternal orphans, 58.5% were paternal orphans, and 26.1% were double orphans.9 In 2007, AIDS-related deaths accounted for 22% of all orphans,10 but projections suggest that, because Rwanda has experienced some success in dealing with the HIV/AIDS crisis, the number of orphans accounted for by AIDS-related deaths will decline from 22% in 2007 to 15% by 2012.11 Also, by 2012, all orphans from the genocide of 1994 will have turned 18, leading to a further decline in the number of Rwandan orphaned children.12
Institutional care is one intervention used to address the orphan crisis, but numbers from a 2008 government report indicated that 29 registered orphanages were providing care for only .5% of all orphans.13 Informal foster arrangements provided for a much larger percentage of the orphans; estimates suggest that there were 240,204 households caring for orphans in 2008.14 A 2007 survey of caregiving households revealed that family members, neighbors, or others informally took in 66.1% of double orphans, that 27.4% of double orphans had been fostered, and that 6.5% of double orphans had been adopted.15
A study of 23 receiving states revealed that between the years 2003 and 2009, approximately 158 Rwandan children were adopted by citizens of other countries.16 Currently, however, Rwanda is preparing for accession to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption and has suspended all new applications for intercountry adoptions.17
1 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (2010). Rwanda. In The world factbook. Retrieved October 25, 2010, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rw.html.
2 CIA, 2010. July 2010 estimate.
3 CIA, 2010.
4 CIA, 2010. 2010 estimate.
5 Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office of Gender and Family Promotion. (2008, June). A situation analysis of orphans and other vulnerable children in Rwanda. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/ocft/20090602/rwanda08.pdf. p. 1.
6 CIA, 2010. 2001 estimate.
7 CIA, 2010. 2007 estimates.
8 Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, 2008, p. 3.
9 Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, 2008, p. XVII.
10 Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, 2008, pp. XVII, XVIII.
11 Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, 2008, p. XVIII.
12 Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, 2008, p. XVII.
13 Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, 2008, p. 22.
14 Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, 2008, p. 38.
15 Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, 2008, p. 33.
16 Selman, P. (2010, December). African states of origin, 2003-2009: Number of children sent to 23 receiving states. Paper prepared for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Washington, DC. p. 2.
17 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs (2011, September 3). Alert: Suspension of new applications. Intercountry Adoptions: Rwanda. Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://adoption.state.gov/country_information/country_specific_alerts_notices.php?alert_notice_type=alerts&alert_notice_file=rwanda_1.