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Innovative project cares for AIDS orphans
Saturday 7 May 2005
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SWAZILAND: Innovative project cares for AIDS orphans

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

MBABANE, 25 May (PLUSNEWS) - Neighbourhood Care Points (NCP) that provide a host of services to Swaziland's growing population of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) will be expanded by 150 percent by the end of 2005 in the drought stricken southern Shiselweni and eastern Lubombo regions, according to a recent report released by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

"Neighbourhood Care Points are places for children to acquire [assistance with] their nutritional as well as emotional, educational and even spiritual needs. Importantly, they are places that allow for the socialisation of otherwise isolated children," said UNICEF country representative Alan Brody.

In conjunction with the World Food Programme, which sees to the basic nutritional needs of OVC, 198 care points have already been established across the country. Eighty of these are located in the dry lowveld regions, where a third year of drought has led to acute food shortages. Some 200 NCPs will be operational next year.

"The care points see to the needs of vulnerable children and orphans who have lost their parents to AIDS, and they bring communities into the process, which is part of our philosophy of finding grassroots solutions to social problems," said UNICEF communications director Sibusiso Mngadi.

Instead of uprooting the children to live in a distant institution, they remain in the parental home in their community and report to the neighbourhood care point each day.

In Manzini, the commercial hub of the country, social worker Pholile Dlamini explained: "Continuity is very important for a child's life. Children are conservative, and they cling to their roots. Keeping them in familiar surroundings helps them preserve their identities during trying times."

An estimated 20,000 children are orphaned by AIDS each year. Faced with these staggering numbers, UNICEF embarked on a project to enlist the participation of community members.

In the project, called "Lihlombe Lekukhalela" (shoulder to cry on in SiSwati), a "child protector" from the community is charged with providing nutritional, educational and spiritual assistance to the AIDS orphans. Surprisingly, 680 of the 2,500 child protectors are men. "This is something new - Swazi culture is very gender specific, and women have always been the caregivers of children," noted Dlamini.

With the one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, HIV/AIDS programmes in Swaziland are developing community capacity to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of children.

Efforts are also being made to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on education, and the first UNICEF-sponsored training workshops for "volunteer teachers," have delivered 39 surrogate teachers.

"Giving these youth something meaningful and productive to do reduces the idle time when they can get into trouble, while expanding their intellectual capacities and indoctrinating a culture of social activism. With youth unemployment so high, it also gives the youth a purpose in their lives, and it allows communities to expand their capacities by training local talent," said Amos Nhlabatsi, a teacher in Mliba.


Recent SWAZILAND Reports
Drought, hunger and AIDS, but still coping,  5/May/05
Business coalition launches HIV/AIDS mitigation plan,  27/Apr/05
Child rights advocates highllight plight of under-fives,  20/Apr/05
Some optimism despite gloomy new HIV figures,  8/Apr/05
Health workers score with TB campaign,  7/Apr/05
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Mothers and HIV/AIDS

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