The meeting brought the government and donors together with non-governmental and community-based organisations.
Guest of honour was the Deputy Minister of Community Development and Social Services, Mr Friday Malwa, who delivered a speech on behalf of the Minister, Michael Kaingu.
Also speaking was Professor Father Michael J Kelly, who highlighted the progress Zambia has made in implementing effective strategies to care for children affected by HIV. In a UNICEF survey of 35 African countries, Zambia was ranked joint third for its national response, which has included creating a comprehensive National Child Policy.
Nevertheless, there is much scope for improving coordination of the numerous activities of government and non-governmental organisations. The workshop aimed to break down any distrust or miscommunication, and explore strategies for better harmonisation and collaboration.
The Alliance Zambia began the event by conducting high-level advocacy training. The second day focused on the findings of two recent studies of civil society capacity to influence policy coordination.
Based on these findings, participants used the method of “putting yourself in another’s shoes” to help build bridges between community-based organisations and the government.
On the final day, the Alliance Zambia presented lessons from its Irish Aid-funded programme ‘Sustaining Zambia’s Future: Strengthening Community Support Systems for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children’, highlighting the programme’s impact to date.
The workshop ended with a panel discussion involving Irish Aid, RAPIDS, World Vision, ZCO and two implementing community-based organisations.
The forum revealed some consequences of limited information sharing among stakeholders. For example, some participants learnt for the first time that the government is working with various civil society organisations to establish the Zambia Council for the Child (ZCC) under the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services.
Some suggested that resources being used to establish this council might be better channeled to the Department of Social Welfare, to strengthen its capacity to coordinate activities.
They also questioned whether the government was taking sufficient steps to ensure that coordination becomes one of the key strategies in assisting communities to care for orphaned children, as stated in the National Child Policy.
“It is one thing to have resources to support children, but it’s a completely different and depressing situation to be unable to know whether resources are reaching the intended beneficiaries when there are many actors working independently to support the same communities,” said one participant.
The Alliance Zambia will continue to work with the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services to address such concerns with the support of Irish Aid.