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Helping families living with HIV in Mozambique

© UNAIDS/Eliane Beeson
Farcelina Tamele (left) from Kuvumbana, a community-based organization caring for people living with HIV, visits Celeste Macuacua (not her real name), and her two orphaned grandchildren in the town of Xai-Xai, Gaza province, Mozambique.

By Thierry Delvigne-Jean and Emidio Machiana

XAI-XAI, Mozambique, 18 March 2010 − Celeste Macuacua (not her real name), a widow living with her two orphaned grandchildren, had just returned home from working on her plot when she heard a familiar voice calling from outside.

Community activist Francelina Tamele had stopped by their home as part of the home-based care visits she routinely makes to vulnerable families in this rural village. Ms. Tamele works with Kuvumbana, a community-based organization in Gaza province that provides care and support to people affected by HIV and AIDS.

Seeking respite from the hot midday sun, the women sat on a mat near the small hut, in the shade of a leafy mango tree. The activist asked about the family’s situation.

Living with HIV

Ms. Macuacua, 60, is living with HIV and it’s crippling her capacity to provide for her family. When her daughter and her son-in-law died more than two years ago, she was left to take care of her two grandchildren Jumer, 6, and Manuel, 7.

“My grandchildren are growing up well,” says Ms. 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 HIV/AIDS pandemic is affecting an increasing number of families in Mozambique. There are an estimated 1.4 million orphaned children in Mozambique, more than 400,000 of which have lost their parents due to HIV/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.

Support for vulnerable families

UNICEF supports seven community-based organisations, such as Kuvumbana, that provide help with birth registration; basic education; health care; food and nutritional support; financial support and psychosocial support.

Kuvumbana began working with Ms. 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.

Birth certificates for children

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.

“For example, we referred Celeste to the local health centre for anti-retroviral treatment, and she is doing well now,” she said. “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 has received school materials and clothing so that he can attend classes, and his sister Jumer will soon start school as well.

“The support we receive from the activists gives me hope that my grandchildren will be able to have a better life,” says Ms. Macuacua.



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