Children Tariro: Building Economic Resilience For HIV Epidemic Control

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This adage as cliché and old as it may sound is relevant and key to developing strong systems for better epidemic control and management.

By Michael Gwarisa In Manicaland Province

Many a times, young people especially girls, fall prey to cunning and daring men who use gifts to lure them into having sexual intercourse as a result of poverty. Since most of these victims are below the consenting age, negotiating for protected sex becomes difficult.

The UNAIDS: HIV and Women Report of 2018 indicates that Zimbabwe has a total 780 000 girls infected with HIV owing to various factors chief among them being poverty which leads girls into sex work or transactional sex.  Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) are also at great risk of HIV infection owing to their vulnerability and lack of parental protection.

To address the growing burden of HIV in OVC’s, the Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) is implementing the Children Tariro (CT) project in five districts in Manicaland Province and one in Masvingo namely Mutare, Chipinge, Mutasa, Buhera,Makoni and Gutu . The project seeks to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS on Zimbabwe’s children by enhancing care and support services for OVC.

The CT project provides a range of care and is earmarked to contribute to epidemic control through socioeconomic interventions that reduce vulnerability to HIV and AIDS. Even for those orphans born with the HIV virus, the risk of reinfection is very high, hence the need to empower them socially, economically and health wise.

I got tested for HIV and my results came out positive. I was initiated on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) soon afterwards. My mother told me to accept my results and not to worry or fear. She told me  to be strong even in the face of stigma and discrimination.

“I went for viral load testing and it was very high, it was above a thousand copies. I last got a viral load recently its now normal. Now I am concentrating on my books and would want to be a doctor when I complete my studies,” said Lucia (Not real name) an Orphan living with HIV and also a beneficiary of the Children Tariro project in Marange.

Widows, and guardians of the various OVCs benefiting from the Children Tariro Project in Chipinge (Pic By Michael Gwarisa)

Even though Lucia is living with the HIV virus, she now has peace of mind as she can afford to study, eat and even dream of a bright future now that her mother, a widow runs a flourishing poultry business and vegetable venture which she started using proceeds from an Internal Savings and Lending Scheme (ISALs),  FACT initiated program.

“FACT introduced us to the ISLS, a savings program which allowed us to contribute towards a savings fund as a small community which we then used to start some income generating projects.

“We were introduced to the savings scheme so as to ensure continuity and sustainability of our livelihoods even in the event that FACT decides to discontinue its program in our community. This will also ensure that we even pay for our children’s fees as well as feed them without facing any challenges,” said Lucia’s mom (Name withheld for child safeguarding purposes.)

In the Internal Savings group she belongs to, they have all started projects which have changed their lives in a positive way.

“We are 15 in our group and we realised that holding money in cash was not a wise idea so we agreed to start businesses. I was the first to receive money in my group and I started a poultry business.

“I started with six birds only but the number has since grown bigger now. This project has brought change in our lives. I used to struggle to buy books and pay for my child’s fees but that has since changed. Through the poultry business, I have been paying for my child’s fees and buying uniforms without any struggles. Since January unlike before when my child at times would be sent home due to non-payment of fees, i have not skipped a term without paying fees for my child.”

FACT has put in place an OVC risk assessment tool which ensures their interventions targets  OVCs whose vulnerability levels are high and in need of urgent attention.  Its economic strengthening programs empower vulnerable households to withstand economic pressures which may drive young people into risky behavior.

Mr Kunodziya Madire (50) from Chipinge who is also benefiting from the Chidren Tairiro project said the Internal Savings scheme has greatly transformed his life as he can now look after his family. Being a settler who migrated from Zaka to Chipinge at the height of the land reform program, Mr Madire was plunged into poverty which saw him struggle to fend for his family, let alone  send his children to school.

Mr Kunodziya Madire a beneficiary of the Chilren Tairio project now runs a livestock business and can afford to send his kids to school (Pic By Michael Gwarisa)

“We started this internal savings project in 2016, I bought one heifer but now I have five cattle. Now I am not struggling to send my kids to school and i have  renovated my house which was destroyed by the Cycole Idai. I have also bought two goats and chicken and I am looking forward to growing my livestock business into a sustainable venture.”

Mrs Lilian Vehumayi (57) a Bee Farmer and CT beneficiary from Junction Gate in Chipinge says her business is doing fine but a proper market for her honey would grow her venture tremendously.

“We started this Bee business due to poverty. I was introduced to this project by FACT through its Internal Savings and Lending Scheme (ISALs). I raised money to start this Bee business and my husband made 10 bee hives for a start.

Mrs Lilian Vehumayi a Bee Farmer and Children Tariro beneficiary (Pic By Michael Gwarisa)

“We now have 50 hives and in a year, we harvest at least 200 liters of honey. However, we are having challenges when it come to selling honey as we do not have a ready market for our product. It is our wish that we be linked to bigger markets within and outside the country so that our business becomes sustainable,” she said.

The Children Tariro project which started in 2015 is funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In 2015, the CT program surpassed its annual target of 119 000 OVC and their households, reaching 124 815OVC and their families.

In 2016, the program enjoyed surpassing the set target of 126 347, reaching out to 136966 children and their families. 134 417 were reached through the Country Operational Plan (COP) which is the main CT project and 2 549 were reached through the DREAMS initiative.

Meanwhile, FACT Community Health Officer, Mrs Mirriam Muchadzingwa said the Children Tariro project facilitates the linkages to at least three thematic areas which are under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) namely, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), Early Childhood Stimulation (ECS), Infant and young child feeding.

FACT Community Health Officer, Mirriam Muchadzingwa speaking to Journalists about the Children Tariro Project

The program also has the economic strengthening grid which focuses on creating lifelong sustainable livelihoods for beneficiaries of the program.  FACT’s Economic Strengthening Officer Mr Julian Gondongwe said the CT project was aimed at economically strengthening households including Child headed families, orphans and vulnerable children to reduce the risk of HIV infection as a result of clandestine risky sexual behaviors.

“For this quarter we had 2,794 beneficiaries on the Children Tariro project while the DREAMS component has 3,181 beneficiaries. We are doing more or less the same activities in terms of economic strengthening.

FACT’s Economic Strengthening Officer Mr Julian Gondongwe

“We are pushing for the ISLS and we are also encouraging them to invest into small projects and also we are looking at the youths and economic empowerment skills. The whole thing revolves around the area of HIV and virus prevention. We believe once children and young people are empowered to generate their own income, they reduce the risks of engaging in risky sexual behaviors which may result in them being infected,” said Mr Gondongwe.

Children Tariro provides direct services to the child through a holistic approach to ensure that children are healthy, safe, schooled, and in stable environments. Therefore, interventions focus on Case Management, Access to Health/ HIV services, Safety, Protection, Economic Strengthening and Access to Education (ECD, Primary and Secondary.)

Households and communities are supported through economic strengthening activities and child protection structures to provide direct support to the child.

 

 

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