Health & HIV/AIDS
Africare Technical Capacity:
Orphans and Vulnerable Children
With more than 15 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa having lost one or both parents due to HIV/AIDS and other causes, the burden of caring for these children has eroded traditional social safety nets in many communities.
As the HIV epidemic cripples households and communities, Africare has responded with interventions aimed at supporting families and communities to care for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).
In 2003, Africare developed an OVC model in Zimbabwe called the Community-Based Orphan Care, Protection and Empowerment for Children Affected by AIDS (COPE for CABA). This model is a family-centered, community based approach for providing comprehensive care and support for orphans and vulnerable children and is founded on evidence that strong, healthy families and communities enable quality social welfare and health services to be delivered to large numbers of children and promotes household stability.
The COPE model is currently implemented in nine countries across Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Mozambique; Nigeria; Rwanda; South Africa; Tanzania; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe. The model was further developed through a regional, PEPFAR-funded COPE Project implemented in HIV-affected communities in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique that has provided services to more than 137,500 children and their families.
Africare’s COPE model emphasizes participatory OVC identification, selection of beneficiaries, and needs prioritization to ensure that those who are the most vulnerable receive appropriate services. Africare’s COPE Project maintains that the household is the key point of entry for any intervention provided to a child identified as orphaned or vulnerable.
Africare OVC programs, particularly those implementing the COPE model, support communities by providing the following services:
By working closely with OVC committees, Africare ensures that beneficiary households receive: referrals for healthcare, health promotion education through home visits and peer education; direct health services through palliative and home-based care for HIV affected households, and provision of health commodities such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets and water purification tablets. Using existing synergies with complementary Africare projects and local service providers, Africare also links OVC program beneficiaries to health services that include malaria prevention and treatment, food and nutrition, prevention of common childhood illnesses and HIV/AIDS. For example, in Uganda, the COPE Project partners with the Joint Clinical Resource Center (JCRC) to link caregivers with volunteer counseling and testing (VCT) services and follow-up with ARV treatment HIV positive beneficiaries. In Mozambique, COPE partners with the World Food Program (WFP) to address household food security through food distribution, food production and nutrition education.
Africare primarily provides psychosocial support and life skills education through youth or kids clubs that are established through community-based organizations, local churches, schools and PLWHA associations. Each club is comprised of 20-50 vulnerable and non-vulnerable children to avoid stigma and includes a life skills curriculum that is context specific and gender sensitive tailored to both in- and out-of-school children in COPE clubs. Furthermore, to improve and expand psychosocial care and support to children and caregivers affected by HIV and AIDS, Africare partners with REPSSI, a leading psychosocial support organization, which has trained Africare OVC project staff in psychosocial support provision and provided program guidance and monitoring materials for adaptation to Africare OVC programs.
In addition, Africare recruits and trains youth peer-educators to deliver information and skills in HIV prevention and stigma reduction amongst children and youth. Peer educators outreach to at least 10 youth every month. And in Zambia, Africare’s life skills curriculum, developed through implementation of OVC and youth interventions under the Reaching HIV/AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support (RAPIDS) consortium, has been mainstreamed and reaches OVC throughout the country through radio shows broadcasted in local languages.
In vulnerable households, particularly those facing socio-economic challenges related to HIV and AIDS, children are often forced to forgo their education because caregivers are no longer able to cope with the costs or must stay at home to care for chronically sick caregivers. Africare addresses this by providing direct education support to children in the form of school uniforms and educational material such as pens, rulers and notebooks.
Africare also partners with schools to implement School Block Grants, an effective tool for improving access to education for orphans and vulnerable children. The grants provide much needed resources to schools and in exchange, the schools waives fees for an agreed upon number of vulnerable children. The school teachers and management also participate in specialized training and lead school-based OVC interventions. Africare works with the schools and community structures to conduct school needs assessments, develop school grant proposals, identify beneficiary children and monitor grant activities. Through the mechanism, COPE has improved the quality of education for all children enrolled in the beneficiary schools by providing needed resources such as computer labs and solar panels, while at the same time providing access to education for vulnerable children.
One of the primary strategies Africare uses to strengthen families is by engaging caregivers and out-of-school youth in income-generation and other economic strengthening interventions, which helps families to provide for their own material needs. Africare primarily facilitates micro-enterprise activities for caregivers and OVC; engages out-of-school youth in workforce development; and builds capacity of caregiver associations to increase income through market-oriented activities.
In 2005, Africare partnered with Cardno’s Emerging Markets (formerly Emerging Markets Group or EMG) to develop interventions to link products developed by OVC caregivers to external markets. Interventions focus on a few critical activities within a given sub sector, which are likely to yield the largest returns, strengthen caregiver skills and resources and link caregivers to higher value markets. Through these activities, more than 5,000 caregivers’ products were linked to external markets in FY2009. In Mozambique, caregivers collectively earned more than USD 11,000 – income, which has been used to purchase additional household food, school materials and clothes for OVC.
Africare interventions also promote group and individual savings through training and coordination of caregiver savings groups. As a result, in Tanzania, over a one-year period, five savings clusters with 146 members were formed in Kongwa and Chamwino districts cumulatively saved more than USD $2,000. This comprehensive and community-based approach--particularly economic strengthening and the involvement of community care communities—are key components necessary for the sustainability of support for orphans and vulnerable children.