June 10 2008

SOS Children's Villages continues its work in Zimbabwe

10/06/2008 - Despite an announcement that aid groups and non-governmental organisations should stop food aid operations and re-apply for permits, SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe can continue its work in most areas. But the family strengthening programmes are affected to a certain extent. SOS Children's Villages is concerned about the plight of the most vulnerable children in the country.

In a public statement, Zimbabwe's social welfare minister, Nicholas Goche, said: "I hereby instruct all PVOs (private voluntary organisations)/NGOs to suspend all field operations until further notice."

An SOS Social Centre head confirmed that they had scaled down their food distribution slightly over the last few weeks. However, SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe has not received any formal communication with regard to the statement.

Photo: Chris Sattlberger
SOS Children's Villages is supporting most vulnerable children - Photo: C. Sattlberger

SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe is viewed as a reliable partner in Zimbabwe by the government and has always maintained good relations with both the government and other partners. Our only "field operations" are the family strengthening programmes through SOS Social Centres. Other facilities will continue to function as normal until any official confirmation is obtained and the social centres will continue with what is felt suitable by the facility heads in the individual locations until further information is received.

The work of SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe is directed to specific children in targeted communities. These children are the most vulnerable in the communities which surround our villages and the individuals who receive our support are recommended to us by the community elders themselves. Therefore, the impact of our work is quite different to that of the large scale relief agencies that are also at work in Zimbabwe.

The most vulnerable of all of the children that we support have been identified as those who are a part of sibling headed families. For one of our SOS Social Centres, this equates to 26 families. These families will continue to receive our support by whatever means possible.

However, one of the ways in which we work with families caring for vulnerable children is to work towards their independence from us and to help them to build their own support mechanisms. Combined with the coping strategies which the families were using for survival before our intervention, short term interruption to our field work should be able to be borne by the families concerned.

Photo: Janie Dufty
Photo: J. Dufty

Long term interruption however, and the displacement of families from their habitual accommodation, will have a far more detrimental effect. Families will be broken apart and malnutrition will become an acute problem. Access to safe, weatherproof shelter will be an issue for some families as will access to any form of medical care. Attendance at school by children will be one of the most difficult routines for families to uphold should our support be substantively scaled back.

SOS Children's Villages will maintain wherever possible the work which has been taking place to support the most vulnerable children within the communities surrounding our villages as well as our responsibility towards the orphaned and vulnerable children who come to live in our villages.