Many people in southern Africa are affected by multiple stressors such as HIV, poverty, climate change and economic changes. This article describes ongoing work by a network of scientists to develop a framework for explaining the interaction and intersection of stresses that constitute vulnerability, based on work at 3 sites: a rural settlement in Chikwawa district, Malawi; peri-urban settlements in Amajuba district, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; and a traders' market in the city of Durban in the same province. The emphasis is on how parents act and plan to secure the future of their children in the face of these stresses. It was found that the families and households studied were aware of the threats to their welfare and of their limited options to sustain their families and livelihoods; they were 'coping' in the sense that they could not improve their conditions of existence and were living with the constant threat of deterioration.
Experiencing vulnerability in South Africa: the interaction of multiple stressors.