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2012 Lesotho: Support to Lesotho HIV and AIDS Response: Empowerment of Orphans and other Vulnerable Children, Final Evaluation



Author: Anne Thomson and Andrew Kardan

Executive summary

"With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is "Outstanding, Best Practice", "Highly Satisfactory", "Mostly Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory" before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labeled as 'Part 2' of the report."

Background:

The project, “Support to Lesotho HIV and AIDS Response: Empowerment of Orphans and Vulnerable Children” (OVCs)), started in April 2007 and, after receiving a no cost extension, finished in December 2011. It was funded by the European Union (EU), to the amount of €11.35 million, and managed by UNICEF, in conjunction with the Government of Lesotho (GoL). The EU has agreed with the GoL to fund a second phase of the project to run from 2012 to 2014. This report evaluates Phase I of the project.

Purpose/Objective:

The initial project objective was “to enable OVC to cope with their trauma and loss and to assist them in accessing services; acquiring life skills; formal and vocational skills; and to move on and grow into age-appropriate roles and enjoy food security”.

The main focus of the project was to build capacity in caregiver groups at community level, to enable them to support OVCs, including psychosocial support, HIV/AIDS prevention and access to small grants for material support. All in all there were to be five types of activity in support of the OVC directly, covering a number of sectors, including education, health and food security activities. There was also to be support for the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) to build its capacity to operate similar interventions. The largest element of funding, €5 million, was to go towards provision of small support grants, initially intended to be channelled through the education system. [... more in the report]

Findings and Conclusions:

Overall, the project achieved many of its targets by the end of the last year, and in some cases, such as the number of overall beneficiaries, overachieved. Considerable progress was made in the last two years of implementation, as a result of sustained effort by UNICEF, and in particular by the two staff members at UNICEF who were tasked with managing the project. Few people would have predicted in early 2009 that the project would have reached so many of its targets and the effort that has been put in to achieve these results must be commended.

However, the pressure to achieve targets in so many different areas meant that results were sometimes at the expense of quality. Implementation did not always go according to plan for activities such as the food security intervention, ECCD bursaries were not allocated in a way that increased overall enrolment, training was not always undertaken in a timely manner. There was little systematic monitoring for outcomes or impact. The project’s flagship programme, the CGP, faced a number of shortcomings particularly in its mobilisation, targeting, monitoring and case management.

Capacity has been a major issue in the implementation of the project from the beginning. It has been addressed during Phase I by bringing in outside consultants and NGOs to carry out key tasks within the project, while internal capacity is developed. However, this process has been slow. Certain key positions have been established but are not yet filled. The organisational development analysis of the DSW was not started until 2010, and this work will continue into Phase II of the project. In the view of the evaluation team, the DSW is not yet in a position to take over management of the CGP and will need considerable support in the first years of Phase II to keep the CGP on track.

The efforts to generate rigorous evaluation evidence to inform the design of the programme are encouraging, however, from a broader perspective, the evaluation team based on current evidence and previous experience, feels that the timetable for the GoL to take over the funding and management of the CGP is unrealistic. Although the programme shows promise as an approach to supporting households looking after OVCs, we are concerned about the implications for GoL of taking over what is at present a pilot project for which many aspects have not been fully worked through, either financially or in terms of the detailed programme design. Questions remain about how a scaled-up CGP would fit into the overall national social development policy. The evaluation team understands that these will be addressed at the beginning of Phase II and that social protection issues will be incorporated within the National Social Development Policy currently under formulation. It is extremely important that a clear policy framework is provided in a timely manner. 

Recommendations:

National OVC policy and policy response implementation
1. Given the importance placed on a multi-sectoral response to the care and protection of OVCs, it is imperative that the coordinating structures are in place and effective. We recommend that the NOCC be given statutory recognition as soon as possible to guide the coordination of activities within this sector. Significant delays in the finalisation and approval of the Terms of Reference for NOCC suggest deeper concerns by the Government (particularly the DSW) on the role and mandate of NOCC. As the primary stakeholder and coordination agency, we recommend DSW senior management take the necessary steps to address these and have the NOCC formally recognised.
2. Support DSW in the completion of the National Strategic Plan on Vulnerable Children (NSPVC), taking into consideration the full state of evidence generated by the project including the Situational Analysis of OVC and the Child Poverty Study.
3. The NSPVC should form the basis of any future intervention and any support to the sector by donor agencies should be fully aligned with this strategy. This requires a more proactive role by DSW in owning and guiding the national agenda on OVCs.
4. Any future intervention programme should be supported by a strong monitoring and evaluation framework that includes on-going assessment of relevance and effectiveness. If existing programmes or projects are supported it is imperative to assess how relevant and effective they have been in the past prior to continuation of support.

Phase II OVC Support2
5. The CGP is seen as the conduit for wider child sensitive social protection systems in the country. To ensure that the CGP is fully integrated within DSW, there is a need for full ownership of the programme by the Government.
6. To do so, the Government will need to have a clear idea on the objective of the CGP in conjunction with other existing social assistance programmes and wider social protection policy. In doing so the Government needs to determine who it wants to target, how it intends to reach them, how much it intends to provide, how often and through what mechanism. The answers to these questions must then in turn determine the detailed design parameters of a fully scaled-up CGP, and should be informed by the forthcoming CGP impact evaluation.
7. These questions have significant fiscal implications to the Government. We therefore recommend the establishment of a working group comprising of DSW, MOFDP and UNICEF to address these issues immediately. This working group should develop a jointly agreed implementation plan containing detailed design and costing of the programme together with its human resource requirements.
8. The implementation plan should include a transition strategy for full handover of the project to the Government. This includes human resource and operational requirements, the process of integration into DSW organisational structures and regular management meetings. The transition strategy should have a realistic timetable based on the capacity of Government. The implementation plan should be reviewed on a monthly basis to identify problems and blockages as they occur.



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