‘Living together’ helps communities take care of their vulnerable children
Chókwe district, Gaza Province, June 2008 – It is already mid-morning and 16-year-old Rosina is still at home, hurrying to finish her domestic chores before going to school. Her home is a small, old and dark hut, where she has been living for about a year alone with her three younger brothers – the youngest is only 3 years old. Their mother died about 2 years ago, and they know nothing of the whereabouts of their father.
“I look after my brothers like a mother,” says Rosina. “Our life here is very difficult. Every day I have to go and fetch water in a place a long way from here, go into the bush looking for firewood, cook for my brothers, and also go to school.”
But despite the difficulties, Rosina is receiving support from the community, which helps her maintain the house and to continue her studies.
“We depend on the little money and food we receive for the work we do on our neighbours’ fields, and on the support we receive from Vukoxa,” says Rosina.
Vukoxa is a community-based organisation that provide support to child-headed and elderly-headed households caring for orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC), as part of a programme called ‘Living Together’ supported by Help Age International, UNICEF and other partners. The programme works to ensure the integration of OVCs into school and provide basic needs support, such as income generation, land and small loans for agricultural production and access to water and sanitation.
“We set up a committee with members of the community here in Chiaquelane because we noted that there are many orphans living on their own, and many elderly people looking after children, who needed our support,” explains Anita Ussivana, chairperson of the Vukoxa Committee in the community of Chiaquelane, where Rosina lives.
“Last year we went from house to house to assess the situation in the community. That was how we found Rosina and her brothers.” adds Anita Ussivana.
Since then, these children have received support in school material, school uniforms, clothes, and soap. Their births have been registered, and they have access to health services.A community latrine was recently built in the community by Vukoxa.
Vukoxa has also trained a network of activists, described as “listeners” and “paralegals”, who provide psychological, social and legal support to orphaned and vulnerable children and elderly people who are in a situation of vulnerability.
Fourty-two-year old Constância Novela, a Vukoxa activist, has provided psychological and social support for Rosina and her brothers.
“I go and visit them at least twice a month, hear what their concerns are, advise them and help them in what they need,” says Novela.
About 146 orphaned and vulnerable children are being supported by Vukoxa in the community of Chiaquelane alone.
Some of the activists are also trained as “story tellers” and work in the schools to promote local history and moral and civic education among children and adolescents.
Through associations such as Vukoxa, in coordination with the local authorities and with the support of UNICEF and its partners, vulnerable children such as Rosina and her brothers are referred for basic social services of education, health, nutrition, birth registration, psycho-social support, among others.
It is estimated that over 400,000 children were orphaned by AIDS in Mozambique, a number which is growing alarmingly.
The mobilisation of communities to support orphaned and vulnerable children is part of the support provided by UNICEF and its partners to the Mozambican government to implement the Action Plan for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children. The Plan aims to reach over 1.3 million orphaned and vulnerable children with basic social services.