Are We Meeting the Needs of Vulnerable Children in Lesotho?

Are We Meeting the Needs of Vulnerable Children in Lesotho?

{Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, Lesotho}Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, Lesotho

This post originally appeared on the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Regional Exchange (SHARE) as "Meeting the needs of vulnerable children: where are we and where do we need to go?".

The first Lesotho National Conference on Vulnerable Children (LCVC), December 8-11, 2014, reflected upon the state of the response to vulnerable children and facilitated a systematic approach of generating and articulating evidence for future direction for an efficient, effective, and well-coordinated response within the region.

The opening plenary session strategically addressed the regional, national, and community response to vulnerable children.

[Dr. Manasa Dzirikure, SADC Secretariat.] {Photo credit: MSH staff}Dr. Manasa Dzirikure, SADC Secretariat.Photo credit: MSH staffDr. Manasa Dzirikure leads the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat’s work on the issue of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and youth. A dynamic speaker, Dr. Dzirikure began by congratulating Lesotho on the achievement of launching its OVC Standards of Care.

Noting that 76 percent of the SADC region’s population is under 35 years old and the existence of nearly 20 million orphans under 18 years old, Dr. Dzirikure called for a more comprehensive systematic approach, with service provider coordination and referrals as key aspects. He encouraged participants to see opportunities rather than challenges: while SADC’s population is very young, investing in this demographic will yield high dividends. Severing the cycle of poverty and integrating OVC and youth into every sector—health, employment, agriculture, and education—are strategic investments which will result in a prosperous region where everyone benefits.

Mantsenki Mphalane from Children’s Services at Lesotho’s Ministry of Social Development provided an in-depth analysis of the country’s achievements, challenges, and lessons learned:

Lesotho's Achievements:

  • Strong legislative and policy frameworks, such as the National Strategic Plan on Vulnerable Children 2012-2017 and Child Protection and Welfare Act 2011
  • Assistance programs, including a child grants pilot project which has reached more than 70,000 children in 43 community councils, as well as OVC bursaries
  • Functional coordinating structures at several levels: the National OVC Coordinating Committee and District Child Protection Teams

Challenges:

  • Inadequate monitoring and evaluation systems and standard criteria and assessment
  • A reliance on external funding
  • A lack of regulatory structures and institutions

Lessons learned:

  • High-level multisectoral dissemination of legislation using relevant data is essential
  • Coordination, accountability, and capacity strengthening are key elements
  • Child participation and involvement makes programming more effective and sustainable

Approximately one-third of Lesotho’s one million children are orphans and vulnerable children, making an effective and well-coordinated response incredibly important for the country’s future.

John Khoathela, representing Tenesolo Community Council in the district of Thaba Tseka in Lesotho, explained the institution’s coordination and facilitation role. He shared specific examples of achievements, including the Community Council’s work with Habitat for Humanity to provide homes for OVC. Tenesolo Community Council has also supported local civil society organization Phelisanang Bophelong HIV Support Center to deliver services, establish Voluntary Savings and Loan groups, and disseminate the Child Protection and Welfare Act in the local language, Sesotho. The country is also exploring the creation of one-stop centers providing comprehensive information and services within communities.

These speakers set the stage and established the context for what will be explored in a wide variety of sessions during the conference, to explore where we are, what we have learned, what the challenges are, and how to resolve them.

The great challenge of development work is that our efforts do not bear fruit immediately. Rather, we will only discern real impact in the next generation. Will our investments today be sufficient to change tomorrow? I am excited to hear from children themselves, with presentations on child participation and child protection.

Learn more

The first Lesotho National Conference on Vulnerable Children, December 8-11, 2014, was organized by the Government of Lesotho, with support from US Agency for International Development (USAID)/The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through Management Sciences for Health’s Building Local Capacity for Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa Project, and in collaboration with UNICEF, UNAIDS, and other development partners.

Lesotho National Conference on Vulnerable Children (SHARE)

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