New national action plan benefits Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable children and families
By Elizabeth B. Mupfumira
HARARE, Zimbabwe, 30 September 2011 - After both his parents died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2002, Stephen*, 13, who is HIV-positive, went to live with his older brother, but soon ran away to the dangerous streets of Hatcliffe after enduring months of abuse at the hands of his sister-in-law.
To avoid being attacked in his sleep, Stephen took to spending his nights at the gate of the nearby Christ Ministries Pentecostal Church, which is where congregation member, Mai Tsitsa, took him into her care and had him admitted into the HIV treatment programme in Harare.
“When I found him, I initially offered to take him back to his brothers’ house, but he began to cry and refused to go back,” said Ms. Tsitsa. “I am glad that he is now back on track and is showing signs of recovery.”
In Zimbabwe, there are many children in similar circumstances to Stephen’s. With over one million children orphaned by AIDS and approximately 120,000 living with HIV, many wind up living in the streets after being abused by their caregivers. Currently, 3.5 million children are living below the food poverty line with many more unable to attend school.
Reaching the most vulnerable
It is because of these and other difficulties facing the vulnerable children of Zimbabwe, that the national Government, in partnership with UNICEF, has launched a massive new National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (NAPII) which will be supported by the Child Protection Fund, with current contributions from the European Commission and the Governments of the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The plan incorporates four major components, which include: increasing the incomes of extremely poor households, through cash transfers; increasing access to basic education, health and other social service; increasing access to effective child protection services; and strengthening capacity in the coordination and management of the programme.
“Protecting children from poverty, harm and abuse begins with reducing their vulnerabilities,” said UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr. Peter Salama. “Strengthening the family is one of the critical components that will contribute to the realisation of children’s rights.”
Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, highlighted social protection as a national priority. "I am pleased to note that we are on the road to ensuring that Zimbabwe's children, especially the most vulnerable, will benefit from these critical services," he said.
Never too late
This second phase of the National Action Plan builds on the success and lessons of the first phase which was launched in 2005 and received funding through the multi-donor funded Programme of Support worth $85 million, which assisted over 500,000 children to access education, health, nutrition and social welfare.
“Combined investment in rebuilding the social services sector remains critical in Zimbabwe,” said Dave Fish, Head of DFID Zimbabwe, speaking on behalf of the European Commission and the Governments of Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. “I am particularly pleased that as donors we are able to harmonise our resources and align behind a Government of Zimbabwe policy, the NAP II.“
This new programme will make a huge difference in the lives of millions of Zimbabwean children. It is never too late to learn to read and write and Stephen will be on his way to first grade in 2012.
*His name has been changed to protect his identity.