Communities Mobilize to Provide Care to Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Lesotho

Momotaung holds Sabelo. {Photo credit: J. Mavudze/MSH.}Photo credit: J. Mavudze/MSH.

In rural Lesotho, Momotaung wakes up early to prepare for a trip to the hospital for her checkup, a hospital two hours away from her home. 

On her way, she stops to pick up an elderly neighbor’s child, a three-year-old orphan named Sabelo---one of 12 siblings and cousins being cared for by their grandmother. She collects three other children from the village also needing care at the hospital. While this simple act may not appear heroic to some (as Momotaung was already going to the hospital), it provides invaluable support to primary caregivers such as Sabelo’s grandmother and brings to life the adage, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

There are an estimated 363,526 orphans in Lesotho, representing 33.8 percent of all children in the country. Nearly half (45 percent) of all households are caring for at least one orphan, according to the Government of Lesotho: Ministry of Social Development, Situation Analysis of Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children in Lesotho 2011.

“Our love for orphans and vulnerable children has significantly improved, and that is the reason why I make such a sacrifice,” Momotaung says. She says she has seen changes in her village of Thaba Khubelu because of support from the Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (LENEPWHA), a local organization receiving a small grant through the USAID-funded Building Local Capacity for the Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa Project (BLC), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

Momotaung is a member of Ha re bolaeng khethollo (Let’s kill the stigma) support group. This group of 20 provides home-based care services to orphans and vulnerable children and their caregivers on child growth education and monitoring, personal hygiene, and immunization schedules. For children living with HIV, the caregivers ensure children have access to and adhere to anti-retroviral therapy. The support group makes monthly contributions to support children with special needs to access health and educational services. 

The group used to serve one village, but they now reach eight villages with services. Momotaung attributes their improved capacity to training they received from LENEPWHA on HIV and AIDS, psychosocial support, health referrals, and nutrition. Momotaung states that before receiving this support from LENEPWHA, “We did not have patience with our clients, and our capacity to provide care and support was very limited… There was no organization or individuals who were providing technical assistance and monitoring us, and we were not motivated to do our work.” 

The support group has now raised awareness on health and hygiene in the community and health-seeking behaviors among community members has significantly improved: “People used to go to traditional healers, but many of them now go to health facilities for treatment of illness.” Community leaders are well-informed about the work caregivers like Momotaung are doing and are supporting it by assisting those who are ill to get to the hospital, and by inviting them to public gatherings that provide health information and referrals.

LENEPWHA is one of 12 organizations that receive USAID-funded small grants through BLC in Lesotho. The organization provides psychosocial support and skills training to orphans and vulnerable children and their caregivers. Since 2011, LENEPWHA’s work has reached more than 8,500 beneficiaries. To date, BLC has reached 57,223 OVC and caregivers with services through its partners.

BLC’s activities in Lesotho focus on capacity building and technical assistance at all levels of the health system – national, district, and community – to improve the quality of sustainable community-based care and support services for orphans and vulnerable children. At the community level, partner organizations regularly receive technical assistance on OVC programming and organizational development issues such as monitoring and evaluation and financial management.

Jabulani Mavudze is a Monitoring & Evaluation advisor, and Johanna Theunissen a Senior Communications Associate, for BLC at MSH.

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