Panel 3. Communities Supporting Orphans in Their Homes: A Low-cost Model for Care
As projections of the number of AIDS orphans rise, some calls have been heard for an increase in institutional care for children. This solution is impracticably expensive. In Ethiopia, for example, keeping a child in an orphanage costs between US $300 and US $500 a year, over three times the national income per person. It is also tragic for children who are separated from their siblings, taken out of their communities, and raised in situations which do not prepare them for life as an adult. Institutionalization stores up problems for society, which is ill-equipped to cope with an influx of young adults who have not been socialized in the community in which they will have to live.
One solution developed by church groups in Zimbabwe is to recruit community members to visit orphans in the homes where they live -- either with foster parents, grandparents, or other relatives, or in child-headed households. The visitors, who know their communities well, pay weekly or twice-monthly visits to the neediest families, ensuring that carers and children get the material and emotional support they need in order to keep the household together. Households caring for orphans are provided with clothing, blankets, school fees, seeds and fertilizer as necessary, and communities contribute to activities such as farming communal fields and generating income to support the programme. The programme has recruited some 180 volunteers, who between them help over 2,700 households with orphans. Overall, the programme costs under US $10 per family supported, funds that are provided by an NGO -- the Family AIDS Caring Trust -- and by local churches. This community-driven approach to orphan support has been reproduced all over Zimbabwe, and replicas are now sprouting up in other African countries including Kenya, Malawi and Zambia.
This article was provided by UNAIDS. It is a part of the publication AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2000. Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.