November 30 2005
Many forms of help for a complex problem
1 December - World Aids Day
30/11/2005 - There is a lot going on in the fight against Aids; however, there still is an overwhelming demand for different kinds of support and awareness initiatives. This year's slogan "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise" urges decision-makers in politics to further intensify efforts in prevention, treatment, care and support work.
In his address on World Aids Day 2005, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan makes it clear that the successful fight against the spread of Aids is essential so as to attain all the other development goals (UN Millenium Development Goals). Many sub-sectors have experienced successful developments during the past years; however, this will just not be enough to produce real change in the context of the Aids pandemic problem.
The social programmes of SOS Children's Villages primarily focus on efforts to help children and young people whose future is at stake as a consequence of HIV/Aids. The main target areas for programmes are the whole of Southern Africa, the Western and Central African region, East Africa and some countries in Eastern Europe.
All in all, SOS Children's Villages currently helps about 23,500 children and young people in Africa alone who have somehow been affected by the HIV/Aids pandemic. The number of social programmes and SOS Social Centres that organise support is rising steadily. Currently, there are 57 SOS Social Centres and family strengthening programmes working with children affected by HIV/Aids on the African continent. By late 2007, the number of projects/centres is expected to increase by 21.
There are also Aids projects for children, young people and their families in Estonia and Ukraine, and numerous SOS Children's Village facilities throughout the world (schools, vocational training centres, medical centres) are actively involved in spreading Aids awareness. In most cases they work together with other relief organisations, local initiatives and the authorities as strong local rooting of Aids relief programmes on the community level is a top priority.
The lack of sufficient care resources and discrimination of HIV/Aids victims still represents one of the most significant problems. This extends not only to people who are HIV positive but especially also to children whose parents have died of HIV/Aids. In many cases, taboos are not the only issue. Access to basic care and education is being blocked which again spurs the vicious circle of poverty and, hence, increases the risk of HIV infections due to a lack of information and other factors which come with poverty.
"My parents both died of Aids within six months. There was no hope of going to school that year as there was no one there to pay my school fees", says 14-year-old Moussa* from Niamey/Niger. Ahmadou*, who has also become a full orphan due to Aids: "I wanted to go to school or do some training; I'd been trying to for five years, but it was impossible."
One of the first results of children (especially in fast-developing and developing countries) losing their parents is that they cannot go to school anymore. This is where many family strengthening programmes run by SOS Children's Villages come in. Like Moussa and Ahmadou, thousands of children are given the opportunity to go to school again; school fees are paid for and the children receive books, educational material and school uniforms.
The programme in Niamey started in March 2005; other programmes have been there for years, like, e.g., in South Africa which, with an infection rate of 11 % out of the total population, (sadly) tops the Aids statistics. Each of the seven SOS Children's Villages in South Africa also runs a social centre which provides counselling, medical assistance, child-minding, community-based social work etc. within the context of HIV/Aids issues. Additional centres that will especially focus on self-help within the communities are under construction.
The SOS Children's Villages in Pietermaritzburg (Province of KwaZulu Natal) and in Cape Town, which cover thousands of children with their family strengthening programmes, have planned special campaigns and events for World Aids Day to make it clear that decisive action has to be carried out both at grass roots and decision-making levels to stop the devastating Aids pandemic.
In KwaZulu Natal, a number of campaigns will be organised to raise awareness on the fate of children afflicted by HIV/Aids and their families; this will also include collecting donations for these people. On the other hand, in Cape Town, networking by numerous NGOs and CBOs (Community Based Organisations) will be in the spotlight. These organisations provide all sorts of social support services to afflicted communities and co-ordinate their efforts.
SOS Children's Villages directly supports children and their (mostly) large families with their social programmes. There are many cases where one or even both parents have died, or there are only the grandparents left to care for the children, or the children and their brothers and sisters have to look after themselves. Securing school attendance or vocational training opportunities is one matter; providing the basic services is another matter (medical assistance, financial resources, and legal issues).
"Once a week we visit the families to find out whether the children eat properly and regularly attend school, and whether those family members who are HIV positive take their medication or not", says Rufaï Hadiara, co-ordinator of the SOS Family Strengthening Programme in Niger, describing their daily work which is similar to that in many other countries.
You can easily trace the manifold aspects in the demand for Aids relief in Niamey, Niger. Besides direct support of children, women whose husbands have died of Aids can participate in training courses to allow them to be able to care for their families. The organisation bears the cost for drugs and anti-retroviral therapies for HIV positive people and offers free-of-charge treatment at a hospital which closely co-operates with SOS Children's Villages. Additionally, a medical centre for the community will be established in co-operation with the EU.
The employees at SOS Social Centre Bindura, Zimbabwe, focus on another aspect of the HIV/Aids issue. Besides more general support provided to those afflicted by HIV/Aids, the centre offers grief counselling to young people. In many communities where instances of people dying from Aids have become a normal part of everyday life, both grown-ups and children have become "immune" to feelings of loss and pain; these feelings usually manifest themselves in a different way later in life.
Kudzai Mazemwa of the SOS Social Centre spends a number of hours a week running youth group sessions where, applying different techniques, he lets them express and helps them recognize their grief. On average, 50 young people from the neighbourhood go there every Saturday to sessions where the loss of fathers, mothers, sisters or brothers is discussed in a gentle way by use of drama, sports, painting or other techniques.
Another way of coping with the pain is to have the child write a letter to the person who has left for good; this helps the child to say good-bye when this was not possible. The child can also use this channel of communication to describe how he/she had been since the death of the loved one.
There is also a remarkable new initiative by the SOS Social and Medical Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. This year, the "Haven of Love" was founded there, which is a protected space for those afflicted by HIV/Aids and HIV positive children aged three to fourteen.
Studies show that life expectancy in HIV positive children increases with proper psychological care. This also includes informing them on their illness which many parents do not do out of fear that their children will suffer exclusion.
The "Haven of Love" offers games therapy, outdoor activities, nutrition programmes, family days, parent-child activities, information seminars for children and much more. Besides HIV positive children, children whose parents or brothers and sisters have contracted Aids are the second target group. One of the main goals pursued by "Haven of Love" and all family strengthening programmes run by SOS Children's Villages in the area of HIV/Aids prevention, counselling, support services and care is to help the children cope with the disease in the family context and to provide emotional stability.
SOS Children's Villages runs social projects, SOS Social Centres and medical centres for children afflicted by HIV/Aids and their families in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya, Niger, Benin, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine und Estonia, among others. The end of this year shall see 27,000 children and young people receive support in the context of these activities.
*Names changed by the editors