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Addressing kids’ vulnerability

The country has 140,000 AIDS orphans, 24,000 children with HIV, and 6,000 orphans and other vulnerable children living on the streets (UNICEF 2007). In addition…

The country has 140,000 AIDS orphans, 24,000 children with HIV, and 6,000 orphans and other vulnerable children living on the streets (UNICEF 2007). In addition to living with the burden of the stigma and discrimination, majority of them are left to their own devices and are deprived of their most basic rights, such as the right to education, as a result of care structures that are in a state of neglect. In 2006, SOS Children’s Villages, through its family strengthening programme, launched an education programme for orphans and vulnerable children in order to give them the chance of a better future.

In an effort to curb this pandemic and stimulate national best practices in the areas of gender and OVC, organisations like the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and related offences, NAPTIP, the National Agency for Productivity and Employment, NAPE, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and the United Nations Fund for Women, UNIFEM, had a national roundtable to contribute to the design of programmes that address the needs of OVC and vulnerable populations.

Regarding programmes which work as gathered from research and personal encounters, a variety of methods and their applications were outlined by Maisha Strozier, Country Director for Africare.

“Increase in the awareness/understanding and communication between girls and women is very essential. We discovered that many of these women who were household heads are ignorant or live in denial of the situation they are in because they accept it as a norm. There is also the need to facilitate links with others going through the same experience while using those who have been helped as role models to tell their own story. Stigmatisation is a major issue at the family and community level and stakeholders need to have a reorientation on accepting orphans and vulnerable children. There should also be increased capacity of all forms of care givers at the different phases of interactions with the child.”

There are laws put in place regarding OVC. The fact that these laws should be enforced as well as the testing and reviewing of cases within certain contexts like sharia, is another angle to be looked into, she explained.

Mrs. Sarah Sarah Mkeryi Amahson, Gender Advisor for the USAID/CUBS Project, who has also worked with vulnerable children said, “We need to explore and address issues through the adaptation of the Child Rights Act (2003) and have a Family Life and Health Education (FLHE). Reproductive health pertaining to babies born HIV positive and their growing up into adolescence like that needs to be tackled properly. These children need to be able to deal with and come to terms with their sexuality.

Also, the availability of antiretroviral medication for such adolescents and affected females household heads is very crucia,l Amahson pointed out. “To succeed with these, there is need for the ministries of health and women affairs to be a part of these programmes because the issue of public health in this context is one that needs to be addressed.

Regarding policy environment, the discussion brought to the fore a host of problems which include the fact that there is a disconnect between the state and local government  in dealing with OVC issues as both have a role to play in the enforcement of laws regarding the protection and movement of children around households.

Considering the discoveries made, experts have stressed the need for more relevant information and data to understand the policies on OVC so that programmes can work at different levels of operations as there is no simple programming method that can work except through diversification as is suitable for the environment.

There are policies protecting the girl-child up to even Universal Basic Education but it is one thing to have these policies and another to position them to manage the responsibilities for which they were created. Areas of intervention are critical but as positioned, they fail to address the situation of female vulnerability.

In order to combat these shortcomings, experts have buttressed the importance for the girl-child to be skillfully empowered and mothers empowered to speak up against incest and other vices which challenge their daughters.

They have also suggested that awareness campaigns are taken through to schools and religious environments as monitoring of issues which affect both sexes are carried out.

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