Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Alliance for Community Action on Health in Zambia enables fairer selection for OVC support


Aids Alliance

In Zambia many community based organisations (CBOs) depend to a large extent on subscription fees from members to survive. When working to support orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) this often results in discriminatory allocation of donor funds to support orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC).

Often the priority is given to children whose guardians are fully paid up members of the organisation. As a result children whose guardians are not able to pay membership fees have little or no access to much needed support services, which may include provision of education, food supplements or economic empowerment for their guardians.

Identifying the most vulnerable
With support from Irish Aid’s OVC Programme, six CBOs are receiving funding from Alliance for Community Action on Health in Zambia (Alliance Zambia) to support children in the Ndola and Masaiti districts of the Copperbelt Province. These CBOs were no exception to this discriminatory approach, but the memorandums of understanding they have signed with the Alliance have enabled them to reach those most in need.

As part of the agreement Alliance Zambia is providing technical support to these CBOs to coordinate and integrate their efforts within the Public Welfare Assistance Scheme (PWAS), a social protection framework designed by the Zambian government to provide support to the most vulnerable communities.

The scheme is made up of the Community Welfare Assistance Committees (CWACs), the Area Coordinating Committee (ACC), and the District Welfare Assistance Committee.

As part of this initiative, CWAC members meet with community members to reassess the lists using the PWAS guidelines - to identify and select poor households that are caring for orphaned children. The households’ details are then given to the CBOs to enable them to provide the families with much needed support.

Initially the CBOs were sceptical of the approach, fearing the welfare assistants would favour some households over others. This was not helped by the lengthy household identification process sometimes taking up to a month, and therefore delaying the CBO activities.

Real progress
Alliance Zambia met with the CBOs to review the progress at the end of the programme’s first quarter. CBOs reported that the PWAS beneficiary selection matrix had enabled them to provide support to deserving beneficiaries.

A programme officer from one CBO, Mrs Chishimba said: ‘I am one person who never liked working with government structures. But now I have learnt differently. Since we started working with CWACs we now know who the real vulnerable children are.’

By working together, the CWACs and CBOs have been able to simultaneously strengthen both the community and government systems to be effective in identifying the most vulnerable, and providing support where it’s most needed.

The CBOs also revealed that most of the names on the waiting list, prior to introducing the new selection process, had been dropped as they did not meet the PWAS standards of selection.

Mr Kunda, the coordinator of another CBO, stated that, ‘the reassessment [of beneficiaries] added value because the criterion of the social welfare department is good. It goes beyond what we previously used to do.’

Extending support
What has emerged clearly is that different stakeholders have their own ways of selecting children to support and this tends to leave certain children out of support networks.

Alliance Zambia will continue to provide technical support that serves to facilitate the coming together and strengthening of community and health systems, as well as to advocate for non-discriminatory selection approaches that are community driven and for a government-led coordinated effort for OVC support.

It is important for the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare to invest resources in disseminating the PWAS selection approach to the various actors supporting children.