orphans and vulnerable children

{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 "The role of the private sector in responding to OVC issues".

As we travelled to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, I had mixed emotions about the National Conference on Vulnerable Children I was going to attend. Issues of orphans and vulnerable children are very close to my heart, as I have first-hand experience of growing up with a cousin who is an orphan due to HIV and AIDS. She was fortunate to grow up within a family structure and to get the best education, but this is not the case for many children who are orphaned and vulnerable because of HIV and AIDS.

{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.

Shelly with her latest trophy after winning first place at a 2012 regional Emancipation Day race. {Photo credit: V. Hinds/MSH.}Photo credit: V. Hinds/MSH.

Shelly has always been very athletic. She competed in both her high school track events and in community races in her hometown of Essequibo, Guyana. In 2010, she was ecstatic after winning a cash prize for placing first in an annual regional championship. However, her life took a turn one year later.

Shelly became pregnant and, during an antenatal care appointment, tested positive for HIV. The news devastated her, as she believed that an HIV diagnosis meant her athletic career was over. Shelly was unaware of how to remain healthy while living with HIV, and so she soon became ill, weak, and lost a significant amount of weight. To add to this, she was unemployed and lacked the means to provide for her newborn son.

GHARF officers and others participate in a CUBS-facilitated proposal writing workshop for community-based organizations in Enugu, Nigeria. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Securing funds from donors and partners can be challenging for Nigerian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), given the nation’s large pool of competing organizations. In order to earn funds, NGOs must have strong proposal writing skills, the ability to defend their proposals, and efficient operational capacity.

The Global Health Awareness Research Foundation (GHARF) is a community-based organization operating in Enugu state in southeastern Nigeria. GHARF recently participated in a three-day proposal writing workshop, facilitated by the USAID-funded Community Based Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CUBS) project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

CUBS also conducted a series of training and systems-strengthening exercises with GHARF and MSH provided follow-up technical assistance to build the organization's capacity and improve its status within Nigeria’s large pool of NGOs.

Chinaecherem Nwodo {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Stigmatized, isolated, and conditioned to undertake hard labor, 14 year-old Chinaecherem Nwodo shows that one can overcome the most dire circumstances. Chinaecherem was despised and accused of witchcraft in her community, the Onu-Orie-Obuno-Akpugo village in Nkano West Local Government, Enugu State, Nigeria. Her abusive treatment by community members reflected the challenges facing some children in rural areas of Nigeria.

The community blamed her for her mother’s death and father’s insanity. She was barely two years old when her mother died, and she was abandoned to the care of her sixty-three year-old maternal grandmother. As a teenager, she was traumatized and suffered intense malnourishment. To this day she looks like a 6 year-old girl, though her health has improved.

Nine female orphans and vulnerable children and two CIL staff members. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Early in the morning of January 31, 2012, caregivers, support group members, village leaders, and the local council secretary gathered to say goodbye to 9 girls and 11 boys, orphaned youth ranging in age from 15 to 17. From 10 different villages in the Mohale’s Hoek district of Lesotho, these teens were headed for new horizons.

The adults wished the youth well, encouraged them to try their very best, and waved them off as they boarded the bus. The early morning air was full of jubilant traditional celebration songs sung in beautiful voices by the community members, and these adventurous youth carried these songs with them during their journey. Although the bus broke down three times on its way to the final destination (approximately 130 kilometers on mountainous, pothole-filled roads), the singing continued; the enthusiasm and excitement of the youth never waned despite the hot sticky weather and the heavy rains.

Meet Okata and his grandmother, watch the video.Meet Okata and his grandmother, watch the video.

On this World Health Day, we invite you to meet Okata, a 3-year-old orphan living with HIV, and his grandmother, his caretaker.

World Health Day, celebrated April 7th, marks the founding of the World Health Organization. This year's theme, "Good health adds life to years," encourages the global community to rethink what it means to be "old".

Watch the video, Building a Stronger Health System in Uganda, and share Okata's story with your network of family and friends.

Godgift and his caregiver receiving educational supplies from the Executive Director of Synergycare Initiative. {Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.}Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.

Early one morning Mrs. Fred woke up and found a boy outside her house. Alarmed and curious, she asked him why he was there. Godgift, as he identified himself, told her that the continuous appearance of a snake where he lived forced him to abandon the place he called home, after numerous futile attempts to frighten it off with pepper. Highly disturbed, she arranged for him to eat in a nearby restaurant whenever he showed up by her house.

The boy, Godgift Henshaw, is 13 years old. Godgift's mother took him along when she left her husband and eloped with another man. When the burden of care got too heavy, she left Godgift with her mother in Agbia community, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Godgift’s grandmother beat and neglected him. Most of the time he went without food and often slept outside the house. Finally, she labeled him a wizard and abandoned him, fleeing from their home.

The landlord evicted Godgift when there was no one to pay the rent. He took refuge in an uncompleted building in a nearby bush, completely at the mercy of the elements. Abandoned and stigmatized (following his identification as a wizard), he fed himself by doing odd jobs.

Members of the Heteka Support group with the BLC-NANASO team after the CSO mapping and capacity assessment interview was completed. Photo credit: MSH

Namibia, with just 2.2 million people, has one of the highest AIDS prevalence rates in the world, at roughly 13.1 percent. The country’s small population is spread over a large geographic area, making the delivery of AIDS services a challenge especially in remote villages. Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a large role in the AIDS response here, but often have few staff, limited resources, and are not formally recognized by the Namibian government, which makes it harder for them to advocate for resources.

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