Adolescent orphan girls are a particularly vulnerable group in countries with limited resources. They are more likely to drop out of school and engage in earlier sexual behavior, marry early, and become infected with HIV.
Researchers supported by the Population Dynamics Branch conducted a controlled trial of an assistance program for orphan girls in Zimbabwe aimed at improving outcomes for these girls. Girls were provided with school fees, uniforms, supplies and a school-based teacher “helper” to monitor attendance and provide assistance and encouragement.
After 2 years, girls who received this assistance were less likely to drop out of school. The girls in the program were also less likely to marry early, which is crucially important because early marriage carries a much higher risk for HIV. In addition, the girls who received the assistance had a higher health-related quality of life. The program also demonstrated cost-effectiveness—the estimated value of the program’s benefits exceeded costs by more than 200-fold (PMID: 21493943).