HIV/AIDS

Helping Families Build a Future Beyond HIV

By Christine Ennulat, with reporting by Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya

Halima greets Nadzua

Halima shakes the hand of Nadzua, one of the mothers she works with.

On any given day, Halima has her work cut out for her. As a community health volunteer in a rural area outside of Mombasa, she makes one or two home visits per day, checking in on families participating in ChildFund’s program to help children and families affected by HIV and AIDS in Kenya’s Coast and Nairobi provinces. Halima has 50 children on her list.

Launched in 2011 and run by ChildFund and several other partner organizations, the USAID-funded program takes a comprehensive approach to ensuring that these children and their caregivers have a safety net so they can build toward a more hopeful future. The program works to ensure that basic needs are met, including:

  • Health: Families have improved access to health care. Trained community health volunteers provide prevention education during home visits. Increased access to safe drinking water and improved hygiene and sanitation help protect children’s and families’ health.
  • Protection: When a caregiver dies, the children left behind are often vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and other risks. ChildFund works to protect children and help families stay together.
  • Psychosocial support: Through home visits, trained volunteers monitor families and educate them about stress management. Support groups for both children and caregivers help them cope with the stigma of HIV and AIDS and learn how to stay healthy.
  • Food and nutrition: Families receive nutritious food to supplement their diets and sustain their fragile health.
  • Education: Families receive help with school expenses, and schools are supported to become more child-friendly, with training for teachers. Schools also offer support groups, child rights clubs, financial literacy education and hygiene training.
  • Economic empowerment: Hundreds of savings and loan groups help thousands of adults grow their small businesses so they can support their families and overcome financial barriers that keep many HIV and AIDS patients from receiving care. Training and support for income-generating enterprises help families improve the circumstances.

Today, Halima’s first visit is with Nadzua, age 35, mother of 11; she is a second wife, married into a family who lost their mother to HIV. In her packed-dirt front yard, she greets Halima warmly, a sleepy toddler balanced on her hip. Her 2-year-old son, Mbega, is the only one of Nadzua’s children home this morning — the others are at school, and her husband is in town.

The women sit outside, facing each other, and begin. Before moving on to today’s subject — how Nadzua can gain skills to improve her family’s income — there’s a lot to talk about: the children’s health and immunizations, how things are going at school, how their improved hygiene practices are working out, whether the family is getting the nutrition they need, how Nadzua is doing in the literacy classes Halima encouraged her to take.

How You Can Help

These programs are possible thanks to a $3.5 million matching grant. To meet its terms, ChildFund must raise $321,000. Because of this arrangement, every dollar you donate will be matched by $4.35. Help now.

It’s all hard with 11 children to care for, but life has improved since Halima’s visits began. “I have gained a lot from Halima,” Nadzua says. “I am more educated, more informed on how to take care of my children and my household.”

And she’s especially proud of herself on this day: She just harvested and sold 10 bags of green lentils, which meant she could cover her oldest son’s high school fees.

Nadzua and son

Nadzua and her 2-year-old son, Mbega.

As Halima leaves a little later, she breathes a happy sigh: She loves her work. She loves seeing families thrive despite the devastation of HIV and AIDS. Because she knows exactly how hard it is.

Halima, a single mother of four, has taken in the three children left behind by her two sisters, whom she lost to AIDS. All three children are HIV-positive.

And, thanks to Halima and all she’s learned, all seven children are thriving.

On her way to her next appointment, Halima passes a school she visits nearly every week, educating parents about children’s needs, sanitation and more. “I’m proud to see that the parents in the village understand the importance of growth monitoring, and that they’re interested in their children’s school performance and attendance,” she says.

She’s also had a hand in one important improvement to the facility itself: Until recently, the toilets were dirty, spilling human waste outside — a biohazard. Halima contacted the local public health officer, who ordered the school administrator to either fix the latrines or close the school.

Halima’s next client, Mwau, is a widowed father of four, and he’s waiting. His wife died four years ago. “When one parent dies, it gets even more difficult to take care of the family,” he says. His children are a girl, 16, and three boys, 8, 12 and 14.

Mwau has participated in several of ChildFund’s workshops — on child rights, nutrition, health and economic empowerment. With other farmers, he’s a member of one of ChildFund’s village savings-and-loan groups. The men are also working together to find better markets for their wares. Thanks to what he’s learned and earned through the overall program, Mwau has been able to move his family from a rickety mud hut into a stone house.

Still, he worries about his children — especially his daughter.

Mwau of Kenya

Mwau points out his old home as he stands next to his sturdy, new stone house.

“My daughter was most affected when her mother died,” he says. When the 16-year-old began coming home late after school, he wanted to yell at her, but he didn’t — in the workshops and from his talks with Halima, he knew there were better ways to handle teenagers. But this was really a job for a mother … and his children’s mother was gone. So, at his request, Halima stepped in.

“I explained that while she may want to enjoy the company of friends, some will not have good intentions toward her,” Halima remembers. “There are risks such as rape, and the consequences can be unwanted pregnancies and dropping out of school.”

And HIV.

Halima also encouraged the girl to help out at home — her family needs her. They all need each other.

It’s moments like this that keep her moving forward. “My drive is that people in the community listen to me,” she says. “I have a deep desire to see them grow and lead better lives.”

 

Fighting AIDS Discrimination Helps Stop the Disease’s Spread

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Today we observe UNAIDS’ first Zero Discrimination Day. Unfair or unjust treatment, either by action or omission and based on real or perceived HIV status, exacerbates the risks of infection and its progression to AIDS.

Do you think children living with HIV should be able to attend school with children who are HIV-negative? 

pediatric hiv and aids graphicIt’s mainly a hypothetical question here in the United States, but nine out of 10 HIV-positive children live in sub-Saharan Africa. Imagine Mozambique, where one in 12 female youth and one in 50 children are HIV-positive. 

Worldwide, one in seven people infected with HIV is between the ages of 10 and 24; nearly 15 million children are AIDS orphans — they’ve lost one or both parents to the disease — and four-fifths of those orphans live in sub-Saharan Africa. In Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda, almost every child has a loved one with HIV or AIDS within their extended family. At a community meeting I attended in Mozambique last April, many more grandmothers than mothers arrived, carrying babies in their arms, struggling to raise the youngest generation. 

Would you buy fresh vegetables from a shopkeeper if you knew she had the AIDS virus? 

Imagine a dilapidated, open-air market in Busia, a town on Uganda’s border with Kenya. Rough wooden tables, weathered through years of use, define the makeshift stalls. Neat pyramids of tomatoes, sour green oranges, carrots and potatoes alternate with bowls of finely shredded cabbage, large smooth-skinned avocados and hands of sugar bananas. Shallots, their shoots still intact, and small spicy peppers lay all around. Some of the women minding shop call out their prices and specials; others recline beneath tattered woven mats that shelter them from the merciless sun. 

memory books in Zambia

Zambians make memory books, which give children of parents with HIV and AIDS valuable stories about their personal histories.

Selling fresh vegetables is one of the few occupations available to women suffering from HIV and AIDS in this town. No longer strong enough to work in the fields, carry water on their heads, cook meals in heavy steel kettles over open fires, or scrub laundry against the rocks in a stream, they can still garden and sell their vegetables in the market. Many of these women discovered their HIV status only after their husbands died of AIDS. Most learned about their children’s infections at the same time. The young ones were infected in the womb, during delivery or from breastfeeding. 

My questions — about children and school, vegetables and vendors — are ways to consider the stigma of AIDS and how discrimination occurs to this day.

Although nearly half of all new HIV infections occur in those aged 15 to 24, the proportion of young people requesting HIV counseling and testing is still quite low, due to stigma and fear of discrimination. Even those eligible for treatment may find it difficult to stay on their medication regimen, or they may refuse the social services they’re entitled to.

One bright spot: Girls who finish high school are less likely to become infected with HIV. So, if you sponsor a girl, encourage her in her studies. Ask about her hopes and dreams, and praise her academic accomplishments. Show her what education means to you. And, by all means, erase discrimination and stigma wherever you encounter it.

HIV, From a Child’s Point of View

By Saroj Pattnaik, ChildFund India

Today we recognize World AIDS Day by taking a look at the hardships encountered by an Indian boy who was diagnosed HIV-positive after losing his parents to AIDS. 

The pain that Appashi has gone through is too overwhelming to be contained in an 11-year-old’s heart. At the age of 3, he lost both his parents to AIDS. Though he found a shelter at his maternal uncle’s place, he soon became a victim of severe discrimination and negligence — because he too was found to be HIV-positive.

Appashi planting

Boys plant a sapling at their orphanage.

Living in India’s Karnataka state, Appashi was kept in a separate room and not allowed to mingle with his uncle’s children, who were all older than him. While they attended school, he was tasked with taking care of the cattle. While the other family members ate together, he took his meals separately in the corner of the room.

“I cannot remember when the last time I had food together with others at my uncle’s house. They often ate chicken, but I was never given any. Whenever I asked for it, I got scolded by my aunt,” Appashi says.

“I was spending my day feeding and taking care of the cattle at home. I was hardly allowed to play, not even with other children in the village. The only thing my uncle was doing for me was that he was taking me to a hospital when I was falling sick,” he recalls. “This was my life till I came here three years ago.”

Appashi having lunch

Children eat lunch at the orphanage.

Appashi was brought to Namma Makkala Dhama, a unique rehabilitation center for orphans and other children affected by HIV and AIDS, run by Ujwala Rural Development Service Society in Bhagalkot district and supported by ChildFund. Last year, the orphanage was renamed as Nammuru Dham (My Village) and was shifted to Bijapur, a small city some 500 kilometers away from Bangalore. 

When Appashi came to the orphanage, he was severely malnourished and sick. The officials at the center immediately carried out his health check-up and gave him medication including antiretroviral therapy (ART) — the standard medication used to suppress the HIV virus and stop progression of the disease.

“At the time of admission to our orphanage, he was weighing only 15 kilograms [about 34 pounds], which was much below the standard weight for a 7-year-old,” says URDSS director Vasudev Tolabandi. We gave him special care as required by his health condition. With proper food and medication, his condition improved gradually and now he is weighing 28 kilos [about 62 pounds].”

Appashi playing cricket

Children at the orphanage get to play cricket.

Appashi, now in fifth grade, says he is relieved to be living in the center and now looks forward to a better life. “I am happy that I don’t have to take care of cattle anymore. I am getting good food, including my favorite dish — chicken curry and scrambled egg,” he says. “All my friends here also like chicken and egg. I think all children should be given chicken, eggs, milk and fruits because they provide all vitamins to our body,” he reasons.

“Here, I have many friends with whom I study and play together. I am lucky to be here,” Appashi says, adding he would like to become a police officer and punish those who commit violence against children.

According to Tolabandi, there are 10 children like Appashi who are HIV-positive and need constant care and supervision. “We had 30 children aged 6 to 14 years at our center. But recently, some children who were not HIV-infected have been allowed to go to their families or relatives’ places on the assurance that they will be taken care of properly,” he says.

“There are so many children who need our help, and we are planning to enroll 25 more children in the orphanage within a couple of weeks,” he says, adding that arranging funds for the children’s basic needs such as food, clothes, medicine and study materials is still a big problem.

You can help children like Appashi on World AIDS Day by making a contribution to the center through our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog.

An Interview With ChildFund Uganda’s National Director

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Simba Machingaidze

Simba Machingaidze

In our 75-post series in honor of ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we’ll hear from several of our national directors who oversee operations in the countries we serve in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Uganda’s national director, Simba Machingaidze, discussed some of the issues his office is working on currently, including reducing the child mortality rate, which is high in Uganda.

What are ChildFund Uganda’s main focuses right now?

ChildFund Uganda’s main focus is holistic ECD (Early Childhood Development) including child health, nutrition, stimulation and protection.

Do you have a favorite story about a child or family who has been helped?

To many beneficiaries like Federsi, a widow aged 65 years in Kasengejje village, getting a water jar was a dream come true. Federsi lives with two of her children and five grandchildren. The family used to fetch water from the only borehole in the village, which is 6 kilometers (more than 3 miles) away from their home.

75th ChildFund logoThe borehole serves approximately 900 households. It took the children 3 to 4 hours every day to fetch water, and as a result, they were always late for school. Due to the long queues at the borehole, the family often fetched water from a pond shared with animals or bought some from other people who had tanks. Buying water was quite difficult for Federsi, since she has no source of income.

In such water-stressed communities, a 2,000-liter tank like that constructed near Federsi’s home saves children the burden of walking long distances to fetch water while parents and caregivers are relieved of worrying about their children getting abused on their way to and from the distant water sources.

What challenges and goals do you have in the future?

Our goal is to enhance the capacity of our local partners to sustainably deliver programs that help solve their communities’ day-to-day problems. However, our biggest challenges include resources to cope with the ever-growing needs of a country with high population growth, and inadequate functional government systems.   

How is ChildFund Uganda helping expectant mothers to sustain their own health and their child’s?

mother and daughter

A Ugandan mother brings her daughter to a nutrition workshop. Photo by Jake Lyell.

ChildFund Uganda has focused on increasing skilled birth attendance and quality postnatal care. This has been promoted through child health days, outreach clinics to underserved areas and through the Village Health Teams. In the last year, ChildFund Uganda constructed and commissioned two maternity wards in underserved districts.  Expectant mothers received mama (delivery) kits, which are an incentive for the mothers to go for postnatal checkups and to deliver at health centers instead of going to traditional birth attendants. ChildFund has also worked with the district health offices with supervision from the Ministry of Health to support skills improvement programs for health workers to manage maternal and neonatal health issues better. This has been through mentorship as well as in-service training.

Tell us about ChildFund Uganda’s ongoing work to reduce child mortality?

Some of the goals include reducing household poverty as a compounding factor through the livelihoods programs, enhancing mothers’ knowledge and skills on prevention and management of common childhood illnesses as well as nutrition, reduction of HIV and AIDS infections in children through the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS programs, and strengthening the district level health systems to assess and respond to child and maternal health problems in the districts.

The unmet needs are mostly in the areas of nutrition, HIV and AIDS, district health systems’ financing and human resources for health. Our major limitation is funding; we would definitely like to be in a position to do more.

Giving Children Affected by AIDS the Opportunity to Dream

By Kate Andrews, with reporting by Joan Ng’ang’a, ChildFund Kenya

Titus loves to play soccer, cook with his brother and do math. One day the 12-year-old hopes to be an engineer. Yet, Titus faces some serious challenges. He lives in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, a tough place to grow up. Most families live in one-room shanties constructed of makeshift materials, and children typically sleep on the floor. Adding to these disadvantages, Titus and his mother are both HIV-positive.

But with support from ChildFund, Titus has found a bit of good fortune in the midst of harsh challenges. He and his mom receive the medications they need to stay healthy, and they also attend a support group for those affected by HIV and AIDS.

Kenyan family

Titus (middle) with his mother and brother.

Titus and his mother, who is a community health worker and sells vegetables near their home, tested HIV-positive in 2006. His mother was in shock for the first year and didn’t take medications she needed to be healthy. Today, though, thanks to the support group, both mother and son take their medicine regularly and have learned about nutrition therapy, as well as receiving water treatment kits and school materials. Titus went to a special camp for children affected by HIV and AIDS last year.

Titus is happy and confident about the future, and he and his parents and brothers talk about HIV openly. “The one thing I love about my family is that we love each other,” he says. 

Kenya has a serious AIDS epidemic that touches virtually everyone in the country. Although the prevalence of the disease has declined in the past 15 years, in 2011, 1.6 million people — 6.2 percent of the country — were recorded as HIV-positive, according to UNICEF, and 1.1 million children were AIDS orphans.

Children like Titus, including some who don’t have the same level of family support, need our help to stay healthy and receive the education and other resources they require for a fulfilling future. For the past two years, ChildFund has implemented a long-term support program for children in Kenya who have been affected by HIV and AIDS.

How You Can Help

We provide health services, educational support and community assistance with a $3.5 million matching grant. To meet its terms, ChildFund must raise $725,491 by Aug. 31. Because of this arrangement, your dollars will go a long way; each one will be matched by $4.35. Numerous children and families in Kenya will benefit from your gift.

So far, 350 children and 200 parents have been tested for HIV and received counseling, and more than 1,000 families have started income-generating work that allows them to afford nutritious food and school materials. More than 70,000 children have received insecticide-treated mosquito nets that help prevent malaria, a disease that is particularly debilitating for those already weak with HIV or AIDS.

We can do so much more with your generous donations. More children like Titus can dream of one day becoming engineers — or teachers or doctors or anything else they want to be.

Help Stop TB in Their Lifetime

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communications Specialist

Tuberculosis is rare today in the United States and other developed countries, but in developing nations, it is a killer. Globally, TB has created 10 million orphans and is one of the top-three causes of death in women ages 15 to 44.

Today, March 24, we mark World TB Day by joining with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and other international organizations to raise awareness and mobilize political and social commitment toward progress in the care and control of tuberculosis.

children in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has the world’s highest tuberculosis incidence and mortality rates by far.

Caused by an airborne bacteria, TB often attacks lungs and has developed strains that are resistant to multiple drug treatments. It also strikes people with weak immune systems, particularly those infected with HIV. In the 1800s, Western Europe saw the number of tuberculosis deaths peak at nearly 25 percent, but with better medical treatment and understanding, the TB mortality rate fell by 90 percent by the 1950s.

Now, as the virus mutates and resists standard drug therapies, developing nations are experiencing the same level of risk as Europe did a century ago. This year marks the second half of WHO’s two-year campaign Stop TB in My Lifetime, a program that is significant to countries ChildFund serves in Africa and Asia.

Globally, tuberculosis is second only to AIDS as the greatest killer from a single infectious agent. At least a third of HIV-infected patients worldwide are also diagnosed with TB, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, tuberculosis is often the infection that is directly responsible for death. In fact, testing positive for tuberculosis often masks HIV-positive status, which makes proper medical treatment far more difficult than for patients who have one disease or the other.

Ugandan girl holds memory book

In Uganda, TB and HIV infections are often combined, making treatment difficult. This child holds a memory book her HIV-positive parents created for her.

Despite the overall decline worldwide in incidences of TB and the development of rapid diagnostics, the combination of HIV and TB and its accompanying challenges have kept Africa from being on track to halve its tuberculosis deaths by 2015, a WHO goal.

WHO estimates that 500,000 children were newly infected in 2011, and 64,000 died. Tuberculosis is particularly difficult to diagnose in children; current TB tests are largely inaccurate for children.

Poor communities and vulnerable populations also suffer disproportionately from TB. At highest risk are young adults, infants, diabetics, smokers, those infected with HIV, people who are malnourished and anyone living in crowded or unclean conditions — such as refugees and others displaced by a natural disaster, political oppression or civil unrest.

Because TB threatens the well-being of children where we work, ChildFund supports local government initiatives and public messaging. Here are some facts about ChildFund-supported countries and their exposure to TB:

Sierra Leone has the world’s highest prevalence and mortality rates; tuberculosis incidence there is one and a half times as high as in the second-ranked country, and Sierra Leone’s mortality rate is almost twice as high.

mother and child in a Timor-Leste garden

Timor-Leste has the world’s eighth highest incidence rate of TB, but good nutrition can make families less vulnerable to infection.

Cambodia ranks fifth for prevalence and Timor-Leste eighth, but both countries tie for fifth-highest mortality rate because Cambodia has an edge in successful treatment.

Joining those three nations as very-high-incidence countries are The Gambia, Liberia, Mozambique, the Philippines and Zambia.

Areas of high prevalence include Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam. Uganda, where TB and HIV infection forms a lethal combination, has a treatment success rate of only 71 percent.  Ethiopia and Guinea also have lower-than-average success rates: 83 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

The story isn’t entirely bleak, though. Some countries have made impressive progress. Between 1995 and 2011, 85 percent of all new infections and 69 percent of relapsing cases were successfully treated. And between 1990 and 2011, the overall mortality rate fell by 41 percent.

However, every year funding falls $3 billion short of WHO’s goal to make quality care accessible regardless of gender, age, type of disease, social setting or ability to pay. International assistance is especially critical for the 35 countries designated as low-income — including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Uganda. Of these, The Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are not currently among the top 50 recipients of Official Development Assistance.

Please join us in taking action to end the burden of tuberculosis in the lifetimes of the children we serve. When you sponsor a child or make a donation to Children’s Greatest Needs, you’ll be helping to ensure that children in our programs live healthier lives.

World AIDS Day: 24 Years Later, More to Do

By Kate Andrews, with reporting by Saroj Pattnaik, ChildFund India, and ChildFund Kenya staff

The first World AIDS Day was held in 1988, and a great number of medical and social advances have been made in the 24 years since then. Nevertheless, much remains to be done. Today, we turn our focus to ChildFund’s work in India and Africa.

young woman at table

Rajashri is a Link Worker in Machareddy Block of Nizamabad District, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Rajashri is a supervisor for the Link Workers Scheme (LWS), a program in India that helps children orphaned by AIDS and some who are HIV-positive. She provides medication for hundreds of children infected with the disease in 19 districts of Andhra Pradesh, a central Indian province with a population of about 76 million. Started in 2008 by the national and regional governments with help from ChildFund India, LWS targets high-risk groups with prevention and risk-reduction information.

ChildFund India has identified more than 7,400 children in Andhra Pradesh who have been orphaned or left otherwise vulnerable by AIDS or HIV.

Although African nations often receive the most attention when the topic of AIDS arises, India has approximately 2.4 million people living with HIV, the third-highest population in the world, based on a 2009 estimate by UNAIDS. According to the Indian government, the state of Andhra Pradesh reported the second-highest HIV rate in the nation.

The LWS program, which ChildFund supports, began in three districts in Andhra Pradesh in 2008, reaching 19 districts in 2011. About 23,000 volunteers have been engaged in this effort, and more than 11,600 HIV-positive patients have been identified and helped by the state’s health department.

ChildFund also is working in African countries to help prevent the spread of AIDS. In Ethiopia, we work with children, youth, parents and community leaders to provide HIV and AIDS prevention and testing interventions as well as make available social networks to counter stigma and discrimination.

Through our Strengthening Community Safety Nets program in the Addis Ababa and Oromia areas, 50,000 orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS have received family-centered care and support. The program builds on existing partnerships with community groups and local volunteers to build the resilience of families and community structures to support children affected by HIV, especially those under age 11.

In Kenya, where an estimated 1.2 million people are infected with HIV (the same number as the far more populous United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), a ChildFund program has helped connect HIV-positive and other vulnerable children to organizations that offer anti-retroviral treatment and social assistance.

The number of vulnerable children attending school and receiving health care has risen since the 2005 institution of Weaving the Safety Net, part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Today, that program has concluded, but ChildFund’s work with orphans and vulnerable children impacted by HIV and AIDS continues. As of spring 2012, more than 73,000 orphans and vulnerable children were being served in Nairobi, and 3,200 HIV-positive children were enrolled in support groups.

girl with books

Lucy receives a school uniform, books and a new bed.

Lucy, a 9-year-old who is HIV-positive, lives in Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya. She, her grandmother, her aunt and four cousins share a one-room thatched home. When Lucy was a baby, her mother died from AIDS complications. Their village had few resources to deal with the disease, but now, with ChildFund’s support, Lucy goes to a district hospital to receive anti-retroviral treatment. She is healthy and thriving at school.

At age 8, Lucy started attending a support group for children living with HIV. “I know my status, and that is why I take my medicine, so that I can remain strong to be able to go to school and also play like the other children,” Lucy says. “My teacher and some neighbors know my status, too, and I know they love and support me.”

A side benefit of ChildFund’s and others’ work in Kenya has been a greater acceptance of those affected by HIV, lessening the stigma of the disease.

“When I was requested to enroll her in a support group, I hesitated, but today Lucy shares information about the support group discussions with all of us here,” her grandmother says. “Through her, we have learned a lot about HIV and AIDS.”

Around the Globe with ChildFund in 31 Days: Supporting Youth Volunteers in Togo

31 in 31 logoOver the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we visit Togo.

Togo, a small country on Africa’s west coast, is rebuilding after years of political instability and isolation.

Like many other African countries it was threatened by an HIV/AIDS epidemic, but it was stemmed in part because of the voluntary work of hundreds of enthusiastic Togolese youth. Because it is often the young who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and STDs, the youth are often the best ones to address the problem in their communities.

youth group

Peer educators (Photo: Mario Travaini)

With ChildFund’s support, youth in 22 municipalities collaborated with adult supervisors and health workers to educate themselves and their peers about safe health practices. In the past, traditional laws often prohibited young people from talking with adults. The youth built a bridge by entering into dialogue with village and religious leaders to win their trust and cooperation.

As a result, today’s Togolese youth have a brighter future. They know they can influence others and be heard.

Other changes in this tiny country include access to quality education. ChildFund has built new schools and libraries, providing opportunities for learning that did not previously exist. Students now have access to maps, dictionaries and books. And for those students who struggle with learning in a formal setting, hands-on apprenticeship opportunities now exist in areas such as mechanics, carpentry and sewing.

ChildFund is also providing training opportunities to parents to help improve their income-generating potential. Farmers are trained in agricultural techniques, while others have access to loans to start and expand small businesses.

Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Togo.

With Progress on HIV/AIDS, Now’s Not the Time to Stall

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

There’s good news in the fight against HIV/AIDS – treatment and prevention are working. People living with HIV are living longer and AIDS-related deaths are declining with access to antiretroviral therapy.

A new report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that 2011 was a game-changer for AIDS response with “unprecedented progress in science, political leadership and results.” The report also shows that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic. New HIV infections were reduced by 21percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005.

In sum, treatment has averted 2.5 million deaths since 1995.

“Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response,” says Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. “We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.”

According to UNAIDS and WHO estimates, 47 percent (6.6 million) of the estimated 14.2 million people eligible for treatment in low- and middle-income countries were accessing lifesaving antiretroviral therapy in 2010, an increase of 1.35 million since 2009.

The 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report also highlights that there are early signs that HIV treatment is having a significant impact on reducing the number of new HIV infections.

Yet, around the globe, there were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV in 2010. We must keep making progress, and U.S. international aid is one of the keys to that progress.

A new analysis by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research details the potential human impact of proposed congressional cuts to the U.S. International Affairs Budget. According to the analysis, proposed cuts to global health investments would have minimal impact on U.S. deficit reduction over nine years but would have “devastating human impacts in terms of morbidity and mortality around the world.”

An estimated cut of 11.07 percent across the board in FY13 alone would result in

  • 29,000 more infants born with HIV because of reduced funding to Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programs
  • food, education and livelihood assistance not available to 419,000 children through PEPFAR (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief)
  • funding to treat 403,000 people for HIV/AIDS not available.

Those are sobering statistics to contemplate, especially coming on the heels of a year with tangible improvements in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

On World AIDS Day, let’s resolve to keep moving forward. The goals are clear:
zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

Read more about how ChildFund is helping reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and youth.

Reviving Hope

Reporting by ChildFund Ethiopia

Just by walking the streets of Ayertena village, Addis Ababa, one can easily observe the poverty situation in which many Ethiopians live. It is also common to see many people with disabilities due to leprosy.

Teen girl and grandmother

Tizita prepares coffee for her grandmother.

Tizita, a 13-year-old girl, lives with her grandmother in the village. Her grandmother is unable to work because she is extremely affected by leprosy to the point of physical deformity.

The traditional belief that leprosy is a curse or punishment has aggravated the stigma and discrimination. When Tizita’s grandmother was young, leprosy sufferers often were forced to leave their homes. Her family was among those forced to migrate, and they settled around ALERT (All Africa Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Rehabilitation Training Centre), a medical facility in Addis Ababa, specializing in leprosy disease. ChildFund Ethiopia is also implementing a child and family development project in this area.

HIV/AIDS is another devastating health, economic and social problem in Ayertena. Ethiopia is home to a large and increasing population of orphans: 13 percent of children throughout the country are missing one or both parents. Among the estimated 5.4 million orphans (from newborn to age17), 900,000 lost parents to HIV/AIDS.

Tizita lost both her father and mother HIV/AIDS. Worse, she inherited the disease, as well as the responsibility of caring for her grandmother.

Being HIV-positive initially made Tizita’s life full of anxiety and trouble. She worried about her health condition and the stigma of having the disease. “I often was seriously sick,” she says, tears flowing down her cheeks. “I don’t know why I am given the worst situation. I was worried what would happen to me and my grandmother in the future.” She also lived in fear of discrimination when she went to school and the market.

Girl pours coffee

Now that she has a support network, Tizita is seeing a future for herself.

Yet, Tizita has found help through one of ChildFund’s affiliated projects in Ayertena, which assists orphans and vulnerable children. “I recently started ART (antiretroviral drug therapy), which has helped me to improve my health condition. Now I feel healthy and am attending to my education,” she says.

“I’m getting psychological support from the ChildFund project and my teachers,” she adds. Because she now has a support network, she also worries less about discrimination due to HIV/AIDS. “My hope has been revived,” she says.

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