Providing care and support for orphaned and vulnerable children
About 350,000 children in Mozambique have lost their father, mother or both parents to AIDS – a figure expected to rise to 500,000 by 2010.
Children orphaned by AIDS are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because of stigma and the lack of adult care and support. A large share of orphaned children is living in households headed by women and by elderly family members.
Orphaned children face a number of vulnerabilities and risks, such as sexual exploitation and abuse, hazardous child labour, early sexual debut and marriage, dispossession of property, poor access to basic services, poor school attendance and performance and poor emotional and mental health.
Challenges faced by child-headed households
Children in child-headed households face particular challenges. In a recent study, vulnerable children were asked to identify the main difficulties encountered in their lives. On top of their list was getting food, followed by lack of money, inability to go to school, lack of safe shelter, limited access to medical care when they were sick and physical and sexual abuse.
However, the majority of the children pointed out that their adult neighbours and other community members had responded positively and sympathetically to their situation.
This is why extended families and communities are on the front line of the national response to the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children, and the government promotes community-based solutions rather than institutional care for children.
However, this traditional support system is coming increasingly under pressure as the number of children in need of care is growing across the country as a result of HIV and AIDS.
What is being done
The Government, national institutions and civil society are supported by UNICEF and other partners to increase access to basic services and social protection for orphaned and other vulnerable children in provinces most affected by HIV and AIDS.
Building government capacity, mobilising communities to support orphaned and vulnerable children and delivery of essential services are the main strategies used for this objective. Institutional capacity building is a pre-condition to improving the lives of vulnerable children.
UNICEF’s work is guided by the national Plan of Action for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children, which outlines the main principles of intervention, targets and priority actions that have been agreed upon by the Government, civil society, and multi-lateral partners.
The plan aims to reach 1.3 million orphaned and vulnerable children with a set of six basic services: education, health care, material/financial support (including access to poverty certificates), nutritional support, psycho-social support and legal support (including access to birth certificates).
Over the past few years, UNICEF has supported 384 community-based organisations to provide basic services to 120,000 orphaned and vulnerable children.
The way forward
In 2010 and 2011, UNICEF will continue to support the scaling-up of services for orphaned and vulnerable children in line with the national strategy through direct service delivery and social protection programmes. UNICEF will work along three main strategic lines.
Supporting policies for social protection
At the policy level, UNICEF works with the Ministry of Women and Social Action to disseminate the Plan of Action for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children and to assist in the coordination of the extension of the Plan of Action which will end in 2010.
To complement this work, UNICEF supports the dissemination of the Children’s Act to policy makers responsible to uphold the new legislation and supports awareness raising activities to increase knowledge of the law at the community level.
Strengthening capacity for the delivery of basic services
UNICEF works to strengthen the capacity of the Government to better respond to the increasing numbers of orphaned and vulnerable children through direct service delivery of basic services.
UNICEF also supports the expansion of a social protection programme which provides cash transfers and in-kind material support to the most vulnerable households. in 2009 the number of direct beneficiaries has increased to 163,000. In addition, the scale of support provided to each household has tripled in value, leading to a substantial increase in the purchasing power of vulnerable families.
Supporting community-based response
UNICEF works with local government authorities to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations and community social activists so that they can reach households headed by children, women and the elderly with psychosocial, educational, health and nutritional support as well as assistance with birth registration. UNICEF aims to provide access to these services to 205.000 vulnerable children.