Grace Mukakimenyi is a government community development worker in the sub-county of Katikamu inLuwero district, Uganda. Through a process of community mapping, the most critically vulnerable households have been identified in Grace’s area. This data is being collected as part of the Alliance-led, USAID funded, SUNRISE-OVC project which works with local government and communities to improve services for children. Grace says: “Before the project mapping, we couldn’t know whether we were reaching the most vulnerable people.”
Babirye Fazirah is a mother of one of the families that Grace has been able to help. Babirye’s husband deserted her, leaving her alone with seven children including two children from his previous marriage. There was no food in the house; the children were malnourished and suffering from diarrhoea.
With Grace’s help Babirye was persuaded not to abandon the older children but to care for them, with support. Grace put the family in touch with a community-based organisation providing advice on home gardens and nutrition. Babirye now has a small plot of land full of tomatoes, cabbages and potatoes and some hens. Produce is sold to pay the school fees for the children.
SUNRISE’s primary focus is on child care and protection, but recognises that HIV can create additional vulnerability. The work that SUNRISE carries out, in linking households to relevant HIV and child protection services, in addition to income generating initiatives, is reflective of one of several recommendations made in a new report by the Inter Agency Task Team (IATT) on Children affected by HIV and AIDS.
Reducing vulnerability of children with HIV
The Alliance has long understood that an integrated approach to tackling HIV is essential to improving health outcomes and reducing vulnerability among people most affected by HIV. Whether it is linking HIV services with sexual and reproductive health or tuberculosis services, or in this case, with social welfare and child protection services.
The IATT report presents the findings of a global review of children protection systems strengthening and the children and HIV sectors. The findings demonstrate how children living with or affected by HIV are especially vulnerable to issues of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation and there is a need for greater practical synergies between these sectors.
The role of community action
When it comes to integrating services, communities play an essential role in creating demand for other services.
Grace Mayanja, Chief of Party of the SUNRISE-OVC project says “Community organisations and systems have a unique ability to interact with HIV affected communities to understand and respond quickly to their HIV and broader health needs.”
The Alliance has a strong track record of strengthening community systems in Uganda through its previous project which built networks of people living with HIV to increase access to HIV and wrap-around services. Right now, SUNRISE-OVC is training para social workers (1,863 of them since the start of the project in 2010).
In Uganda, the para social workers are local volunteers who are trained in child protection, child rights, documentation and data collection (using a curriculum jointly developed by the government and UNICEF). They work alongside local government officers in communities identified with high levels of child abuse and neglect.
“Through their work, the community has increased its understanding of child protection through community dialogue, and local government staff have increased their capacity at community level. We hope the body of data which we are collecting will enable national resources to be better targeted around the care and protection of children who are most affected by HIV” said Grace Mayanja.
What more can be done?
Although SUNRISE-OVC is delivering significant results, the project is flagging up areas for future development that reflect the recommendations in the IATT report. For example, a need for additional psycho-social support for the para-social workers who are at times dealing with extreme cases of violence and neglect, and ethical concerns relating to their lack of remuneration in terms of creating a sustainable response to HIV and child protection.
There is still more to be done, but the Alliance is committed to building the learning from projects like SUNRISE-OVC into other programmes. For example, we are building child protection strategies into our Link Up project which aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of more than one million young people aged 10-24 years in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda.
- Meet some of the people involved in delivering the SUNRISE-OVC project in Uganda in this photo gallery.
- Read this blog posted on the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance website by Kate Iorpenda, Senior Advisor on Children and Impact Mitigation, following her recent trip to Uganda to see the work of the SUNRISE-OVC project.