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Meeting the Needs of Children Impacted by HIV/AIDS

HIV AIDS ConferenceWith a global economic crisis threatening support for care, the International AIDS Conference in Vienna this month will further raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

The conference is also a chance to demonstrate the importance of continued HIV investments to support broader health and development goals for children, as championed by ChildFund. At the "Road to Vienna" conference hosted by the Coalition on Children Affected by AIDS (CCABA) last fall in Nairobi, ChildFund presented on the family-centered approach to supporting those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. CCABA will be pointing to those and other successful approaches at the Vienna conference.

Over the past decade, ChildFund has been implementing community safety net projects in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia to aid children who’ve lost parents and caregivers to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Last year, ChildFund worked with community volunteers in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region to implement an innovative Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) care-and-support activity. Community members saw a need, they talked about it, and they acted, leading to a success story about maximizing resources already in place in order to multiply effect.

Some of the project’s volunteer community caregivers observed that the majority of the orphans and vulnerable children they encountered through home visits in Debre Zeyit were greatly in need of psychosocial support and health services. They shared their concerns with other volunteers and the project staff during regular monthly joint meetings. Their concerns were passed along to the Vulnerable Children’s Committees, the project volunteer youth mentors and paralegals.

These discussions gave rise to the idea of implementing a volunteer-led group campaign to augment the project’s existing care and support services to OVC. The idea behind the campaign was to ensure that all of the children who were identified as most vulnerable, and their caregivers, would be reached through home visits by groups of volunteers — in addition to and complementing the regular, individual OVC home visits by assigned volunteers. Since the campaign’s focus would be on provision of care to children and their families, it became known as the “Care Campaign.”

To date, 165 children and family members in this one community have benefitted from the home-based psychosocial support and health services provided by the volunteer groups. More than 150 volunteers have been involved in the Care Campaign since its inception.

Committee members are charged with coordinating the overall Care Campaign. Other volunteers carry out the home-to-home visits in groups, providing care and support services directly to children and their families. Services include counseling and emotional support and basic hygiene and sanitation services (bathing children, trimming their hair and nails, washing their clothes and cleaning their homes and compounds). In addition the trained volunteers provide education for caregivers on food preparation, reproductive health, including family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Furthermore, communities are mobilized to donate in-kind support for the OVC and the caregivers, including clothing, bedding, cooking utensils and educational materials that are provided to the children and their caregivers during the volunteer group home visits.

It is through initiatives such as the Care Campaign that communities are both participating in HIV/AIDS project activities and innovatively tapping into locally available resources to meet the identified needs of the most vulnerable children and their caregivers – in sustainable ways.