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‘Orphans’ became a category of vulnerable children deserving special protection in the context of the global AIDS epidemic, and currently the notion of ‘orphans and vulnerable children’ (OVC), dominates much of the policy for protecting children across sub-Saharan Africa. Analysis of survey and qualitative data from Young Lives in Ethiopia found that parental death does not guarantee the often assumed negative impacts on children’s experiences, and that inequalities between children are greater along dimensions of poverty and household location, compared to orphan status. ‘OVC’ obscures poverty as a main source of child vulnerability and is therefore an outdated approach.

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