Rozaria Memorial Trust project “ Supporting Children Living with HIV in Murewa with Access to Education and Treatment” has made great impact for children living with HIV in Murewa Zimbabwe, a rural communities face extreme challenges to access treatment, education, and nutrition. Many such children live in extreme poverty, enduring social stigma and discrimination. The project directly supported almost 200 children living with HIV and AIDS, and over 2000 young people of school going age in 30 villages within the district.
HIV remains one of the most defining issues in Zimbabwe at the moment, with the country having an estimated HIV prevalence of 13, 3 % as of 2010 and the children have not been spared. It is estimated that 150 000 children aged between 0-14 years are living with HIV in Zimbabwe. Tremendous progress has been made over the past few years in diagnosing and treatment of children living with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe; and such could be enhanced if the country has greater political and economic stability
Through the community outreach and awareness initiatives, RMT has come in contact with increasing number of positive children ranging from infants to 17 years. Currently, the organisation is now working with more almost 200 children living with or directly affected by HIV and their number continue to grow. Most of these children are in schools with the majority of them being taken care of by grandmothers who in most cases are old and live in extreme poverty
As a Trust, our targeted focus on CLHIV enables to support provision of adequate care and support both at household, school and community level. We are one of the very few organisations with integrated programmes for CLHIV in Murewa District. Murewa District Hospital is the nerve centre for medical oriented interventions, and the approach is more on treatment, yet these children do face many social barriers that include failure to adhere to medication, stigma and discrimination. Building capacity of Community Support Groups has been an essential intervention.
RMT also has been integrating good practise on Children Anti Retroviral Therapy Literacy into the care and support programme in schools and in the communities. To provide a comprehensive care and support for the HIV positive children, Rozaria Memorial Trust has been working closely with the schools where the children spend most of their time. The project is targeting eighty (8) primary schools and four (4) secondary schools that fall under the catchments area of Rozaria Memorial Trust operations.
Engagement of schools has been done to promote a supportive environment for Children Living with HIV. Poetry and quiz forums in schools have been used as strategies to advance positive living in schools. The educational awareness on HIV has been vital in reducing stigma and discrimination; and to facilitate for adherence to medication during school time.
To bring out the voices of the Children Living with HIV, a collaborative action was done with Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Services (SafAIDS) on Digital Story Telling of children infected and affected by HIV. The initiative is strengthening the organisational advocacy work on issues of paediatric care in the context of HIV in the rural communities. As a result of the alliance, 20 children from the Support Groups participated in Digital Story Telling project. Their stories are being developed into booklets and a DVDs for sharing with other key stakeholders that include schools, Health Institutions, and other No-Governmental Organisations that work with children.
RMT in continued view of the marginalisation and vulnerability of Children Living with HIV has been deepening its already existing activities recognising that sustainable change can not be made within short period of time. Rights based approaches have been adopted to ensure that interdependence of right to education, health; nutrition and prevention are integrated in the initiatives that target CLHIV in the rural communities.
Stella story below is just one example of our many success stories:
Stella (not her real name) is a seven year old cheerful girl; her father is late and lives with her aunt. Her mother works in Botswana and occasionally comes home. One Monday morning she comes to our office with her mother and the mother narrates her story. Stella’s mother has of late been trying to make ends meet by working as a maid in Gaborone.
She leaves her daughter with her elder sister who takes care of her during her absence. This time when she comes back home for Christmas holiday, all is not well at all. Stella has a rush all over her body which resembles Chicken Pox.
Her aunt has heard about how RMT works with Children Living with HIV. The mother is just too worried and asks how we can assist and we explained to her the services that are offered and the target groups.
One of the officers accompanies Stella and her mother to the local hospital for HIV testing. Both mother and daughter tested positive and the organization is now supporting the young girl with school fees.
Stella tested HIV positive with a CD 4 count of 90 which indicated that the child has suffered a severe Immuno-suppression as result of HIV. RMT catered for the medical fees for the child and continued providing psycho-social support for the mother to enable her to fully comprehend issues of paedriatic care and treatment before the child was administered on Anti-Retroviral Therapy. Through RMT school fees support system, Stella has been enrolled for grade zero (pre-school) at Hurungwe Early Childhood Development Centre
Although there is a growing recognition that stepping up efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission would decrease the need for paedriatic treatment, it is likely that HIV will continue to infect many thousand of children in Zimbabwe for years to come. During the operational period, experience has afforded many lessons to be learnt regarding the lives and interventions for Children Living with HIV. The project has identified a number of key issues and calls for the following
- Treatment facilities for CLHIV need to be improved and also access to education and nutrition made widely available.
- Government and other bilateral partners should priorities channelling of resources in the rural health facilities for early infant testing and HIV treatment
- Awareness should be raised at family and community levels through advocacy and social mobilization on importance of early HIV diagnosis, treatment and paediatric in general.
- There is need to promote greater community involvement to ensure effective contribution and sustainable programs that take into account different social and cultural context that affects access to treatment, education and other basics that are essential for Children Living with HIV and their circle of care.
- Equitable, affordable and comprehensive HIV services for children in the rural resource constraint communities. These will contribute towards the reaching of the goal on Universal Access on ART
In 2012, Rozaria Memorial Trust will work towards meeting its goal of reaching out to at least 200 CLHIV in the rural communities of Murewa District. Close working collaboration is going to be done with the local health institutions, educational institutions, guardians of Children Living with HIV and other community members whom are essentially important in providing a complete circle of care for positive children.
The project will focus on some of the following aspects:
- School related support for Children living with HIV through school fees subsidies and Capacity building of teachers and school children on aspects of positive living
- Community awareness on paediatric care and support. This will utilise the DVDs and booklets that were developed during the Digital Story Telling Project which was done in partnership with SafAIDS.
- Facilitate access to ART for all the children whom are in need of the life serving medication
We are grateful to all individuals and friends who continue to support us such as AJW and SAFAID, and those sending us gifts through Global Giving. We have over 2500 friends on facebook and many followers on twitter who also continue to volunteers advice and services. We always remain grateful to the many volunteers and community leaders and members and partner organisations who support the work of the Trust through out the year.
RMT was founded in 2007 in memory of the late Mbuya Rozaria Marumisa Dizha (1923 – 2006). She lived 27 years as a widow and her life was an embodiment of hard work, caring, sharing, innovation, self-reliance and creativity. RMT advocates for the empowerment and rights of women, children and young people. It supports innovative actions in health, education and entrepreneurship for women and young people in rural communities.
Chigumadze Complex, Murewa Centre, Zimbabwe
Rozaria Memorial Trust, PO Box 114, Murewa
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or