Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, RMT Founder and Chairpers
Rozaria Memorial Trust
A Narrative of Hope for Children Living with HIV in Murewa
Facilitating Access Treatment and Education
When we started on HIV prevention and care programmes in 2007, we had a more general outreach to families affected by HIV. We reached out to everyone and established a strong presence in ward 8 and 17 in Murewa District in Zimbabwe. This is a district with a population of 23,000 and a 23% HIV prevalence rate, against a national average of 13%.
The more we engaged with families, the more it became clear that we needed to have a special and deeper focus on children living with HIV. In every family where a parent of reproductive age group was HIV positive, we likely had a child living with HIV. Most of the children had single parents, living with foster care-givers and some simply in desperate situations. Access to treatment became an immediate call for us, and associated with importance of investing in education for these children, in a supportive and enabling learning environment. This was to compliment on-going prevention programmes.
We secured a permanent spot on the Global Giving online fundraising platform, thus enabling us to raise almost $10K from over 155 individuals within a period of 8 months. This short narrative gives the stories of some of the children who have been and are part of the programme. We value the partnership with AJWS, SAFAIDS, and AVERT who have enabled us to build skills for supporting and working with children living with HIV. The real life stories below give a glimpse of our work, its complexities and yet remains a narrative of hope.
She is a 6 year old girl, who lives in Masango village, with her mother, Rosemary Mudarikwa. Rosemary is a single mother, living with HIV herself and survives through cross-border trade. When travelled to Mozambique or South Africa for weeks, Rosemary left her young daughter with neighbours. The little girl S, did not seem to grow for her age and was frail. Rosemary was afraid and could not bring her child for testing. The Community Support Group discussed the issue with her, and informed her that if the child is not tested, some of the neighbours may no longer be comfortable remaining with the child when she is away.
With the community support, Rosemary, in her mid thirties, walked the 7 kilometers to Murewa Centre to meet with Rozaria Memorial Trust for advice and support. Colleta Zinyama, RMT Programme Officer accompanied S. and her mother to Murewa Hospital, where the little girl was tested. She tested positive to HIV. It was hard for Rosemary. Colleta and the health workers had to spend some time with Rosemary, counseling her; while little S. was simply not fully understanding what all the fuss was about. S. was placed on medicine, and the hospital did further tests for her CD4 Count.
S. will now be enrolled for grade 0, pre-school at Mazeyanike school, with support from RMT. This is one of the schools which RMT had been going through sensitization programmes with teachers, administration and community. Both S and her mother will continue to receive counseling, moral and psycho-social support from the Masango support group.
What is clear is that the Ministry of Health must have the necessary medicines for HIV; skilled and committed health workers if both S and her mother are to live positively and with hope. The Ministry of Education must step up its support to children and teachers as we continue to enroll children of S’s age group, therefore this is long term capacity that should exists. Ultimately issues of poverty and its impact of women and especially single mothers like Rosemary, must be addressed as such mothers all desire to directly provide for their families and for themselves.
About four (4) months ago we shared about Nyasha Matogo, a mother of 2 children whose children had to rotate begging in order to support their mother, from Jakopo Village in Ward 8 Murewa. RMT did its best to provide an emergency response with food, and immediate access to treatment as well as enrolling the children in school. Nyasha’s family was finally came for her, and she was taken to Uzumba, an adjacent district to Murewa. We held hope for Nysha and her two children
Pedzisayi Fero, a Community Mobiliser with RMT for Jakopo village called with sad news. "A message came from Uzumba, that Nyasha Matogo died a month ago", was a simple message. There was no news about the children. RMT is trying to trek down the children and do a referral to Uzumba Orphan Care Trust, since RMT programmes are only in Murewa. We do not know what the situation of the children.
Again, Nyasha’s story reminds us of the deep vulnerabilities of women who are married, widowed, abandoned and live on the margins of society. The death of a mother has such huge impact on children. The community and social protection mechanisms must be strengthened to ensure that Nyasha’s children are able to go to school, and to access treatment and other medical services. They need love and a supporting environment.
Mbuya (Grandmother) Chitate
Well, we still have the many sheroes/heroines in our communities like Mbuya Chitate. Her stepdaughter died 3 weeks after giving birth to little Tatenda. Tatenda was born with HIV and when her mother died, Mbuya Chitate just took her in. She approached RMT for support, “if nothing else but food for this rusvava/infant; and a visit to the clinic”. That was over a year ago. RMT has been providing food supplements to Tatenda since, and she has grown to be a health baby, complying to treatment and healthy as any other baby. Mbuya Chitate is now working with RMT and the health workers in preparing Tatenda for migration to a new diet.
However, Mbuya Chitate wants her little baby to get a birth-certificate, and its complicated. She has to first get the death certificate for the mother, and she is not sure whether she is allowed to register this child, since she is a step-grandmother. RMT has advised her to take it one step at a time, and seek advise. It should be possible for Tatenda to get birth certificate, though it may be complicated.
Rozaria Memorial Trust believes that it’s important to have direct impact in lives of the individuals, the lives of children, care-givers, parents and communities. In an integrated community approach, affirmation of the rights and dignity for all is crucial. In partnerships we can have great impact, cross-referrals and a strong social protection network. Ultimately government has to play its policy role and in delivering quality education, health, livelihoods and food security programmes in communities. Present in 32 villages, RMT reaches over 5,000 people in Murewa, in Zimbabwe.
 Founder and Chairperson, Rozaria Memorial Trust.