Providing care for vulnerable children and their families in communities
Xai-Xai, Mozambique, 2010 – Celeste Macuacua*, a 60-year-old widow living with her two orphaned grandchildren, has just got back home from working on her plot this morning when she hears a familiar voice calling from outside.
Standing in the courtyard, community activist Farcelina Tamele has stopped by their home as part of the home-based care visits she routinely makes to vulnerable families in this rural village. Tamele works with Kuvumbana, a community-based organisation in Gaza province that provides care and support to people affected by HIV and AIDS.
Seeking respite from the hot mid-day sun, the women sit on a mat near the small hut, in the shade of a leafy mango tree. The activist inquires softly about the family’s situation.
“My grandchildren are growing up well,” says Macuacua. “But it is becoming each day more difficult for me to walk long distances to go to work in the field and sell my produce at the market.”
The AIDS pandemic is affecting an increasing number of families in villages and cities across the country. There are an estimated 1.2 million orphaned children in Mozambique, over 350,000 of which have lost their parents due to AIDS. Faced with a growing number of vulnerable children, traditional community-support mechanisms offered by extended family members, relatives or acquaintances have been stretched thin.
As part of efforts to reach the most vulnerable households, UNICEF supports seven community-based organisations such as Kuvumbana to facilitate the access of vulnerable children to a range of six basic services – legal support such as birth registration; basic education; health care; food and nutritional support; financial support and psychosocial support. These services have been defined as a priority in the Government’s Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children for 2006-2010.
Kuvumbana started to provide assistance to Macuacua and her grandchildren in 2006 under the ‘Our home is here’ programme. Kuvumbana brings together about 30 community activists who have been trained to provide psychosocial support and home-based care to vulnerable families such as child-headed and elderly-headed households.
In 2009, Kuvumbana reached out to nearly 4,200 vulnerable children with basic social services in Gaza province. During their home visits, the community activists help to ensure that the basic needs of the most vulnerable family members are met explains Tamele.
“For example, we referred Celeste to the local health centre for anti-retroviral treatment, and she is doing well now,” explains Tamele. “We were also able to register the children with the civil registrar and get them birth certificates.”
As a result, Manuel is able to go to school. He is enrolled in the nearest primary school and has received school material and clothing so that he can attend classes. And his sister Jumer will start soon.
“The support we receive from the activists gives me hope that my grandchildren will be able to have a better life,” says Macuacua.
Last year, with support from UNICEF, the seven community-based organisations have supported nearly 24,000 children in vulnerable households in seven provinces to access at least three of the six basic services.
*Not her real name, to protect her privacy.