April 22, 2016

Identifying and meeting the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Botswana

Written by FHI 360

This post originally appeared on www.fhi360.org. Reposted with permission.

Thabiso* lives in Sepopa, Botswana, with one parent — his mother. He is also living with HIV. Three years ago, Thabiso had no birth certificate and was accustomed to eating just one meal a day. He was on antiretroviral therapy but often took his medication on an empty stomach. Thabiso was identified by a village social worker as vulnerable.

According to a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) report, in 2013 there were 37,402 orphans and an additional 31,526 vulnerable children registered in Botswana.

With tens of thousands of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in need of support and care, the Botswana government has recognized the supporting role of civil society organizations. In the hard-to-reach areas of Ngami and Okavango districts, the Botswana Christian AIDS Intervention Programme (BOCAIP) is addressing the needs of these vulnerable children.

The FHI 360-led Maatla project has been supporting and building the capacity of BOCAIP’s OVC program by developing a standard training curriculum for counselors, a core package of OVC services, case management standards and procedures, and assistance with refining the criteria and tools for OVC enrollment and graduation.

Under the Maatla project, BOCAIP is delivering OVC care services using a family-centered model in which counselors visit, assess and register the most vulnerable children who are referred to them by the Social and Community Development office. Thabiso is a Maatla success story.

Thabiso met Orapeleng Sebetso, a BOCAIP counselor with the Maatla project, in October 2013. At that time, Thabiso could not access the government food basket program in Sepopa without a birth certificate. Orapeleng helped Thabiso register for a food voucher program and a birth certificate. The counselor encouraged Thabiso’s mother to register for Ipelegeng, a poverty eradication program, so that she could provide Thabiso with a more nutritious diet while they waited for the birth certificate.

In February 2015, Thabiso received his birth certificate. He is enrolled in the monthly food basket system, receives clothing, attends school with his friends and continues his antiretroviral therapy.

For Orapeleng, working with orphans and vulnerable children is more than providing material goods. “OVC counseling needs much determination, hard work, commitment and love,” he says. “Love is very important when working with children.”

* Name has been changed for privacy.