IPHC Grantee Provides Holistic Care for Orphans

World AIDS Day 2006: Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.
In commemoration of World AIDS Day 2006, the following story provides insight into one of the many ways that MSH is working to mitigate the burden of HIV/AIDS in the developing world.

With grants provided by MSH’s Integrated Primary Health Care (IPHC) Project and funded by PEPFAR, Khanyiselani Development Trust (KDT) in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa uses ecotherapy (or “nature therapy”) to provide orphans and vulnerable children with vital and high-quality psychosocial support.

KDT has been providing holistic care—including psychosocial support—to 459 orphans and their caregivers in Kwa Zulu Natal. Through traditional and innovative psychosocial therapies, including support groups and ecotherapy, these children and their caregivers receive tools for coping with the traumas they've survived and also for expressing the day-to-day frustrations and difficulties they encounter.

Ecotherapy considers the relationship between a person’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health and one’s connection to the natural world. In a nature setting, the social worker or the psychologist creates an enabling environment where the children are able to talk about their life experiences and share their feelings with others. During the session, the social worker assesses the extent of trauma suffered by each child and then plans the interventions accordingly. The following day the children are allowed to walk in the field and also play games as a first step toward the healing process.

In the four months that KDT has been a grant recipient, 45 orphans and other vulnerable children have been exposed to ecotherapy trails and begun to express themselves, setting the stage for follow-up care that the KDT provides through counseling with social workers and child care workers, resilience building, and family conferences. KDT also receives feedback from family members, schools, teachers, and child care workers about the progress made by the participants, including improvement in behavior and children's school performance. The process length varies depending on the recovery and coping mechanisms of the participants. Unique to KDT is the recognition that caregivers and foster parents face their own challenges and the project's extension of therapeutic support to them.

There are an estimated 1.2 million children orphaned by AIDS in South Africa (UNAIDS, 2006). IPHC is helping PEPFAR and the South African Government achieve their shared goal of reducing the impact of HIV and AIDS, and providing better health care for the historically disadvantaged South Africans. By focusing on local capacity, IPHC is building a cadre of health care workers competent in planning, implementing, and evaluating comprehensive, high-quality primary health care in a sustainable manner.