WITH the HIV /AIDS pandemic continuing to wreak havoc in this country the number of orphans continues to increase significantly. Currently, it is estimated that there are 2,400,000 orphans in Tanzania and an estimated 10-12 per cent of Tanzanian children are considered vulnerable with poor or minimal access to care, protection, education, health care, nutrition and shelter.
It remains sad, however, that the majority of these innocent souls face death or long-term sickness of parents and guardians, distress, bereavement and abandonment, hunger and poor nutrition, vulnerability to HIV / AIDS, poverty, rights violations and exclusion from education.
The increasing numbers of most vulnerable in the country due to a variety of factors such as poverty and HIV/AIDS pose a great challenge to the country.
Today’s vulnerable children are potentially tomorrow’s adults, but, with HIV/AIDS and the number of Most Vulnerable Children (MVC) expected to increase rapidly in the years to come, strategies need to be developed at district and community levels to address this new challenge. With the combined efforts of the public sector, civil society and organized citizen groups, the challenge of helping and reducing the number of vulnerable children of Tanzania can be achieved.
PACT Tanzania, one of the organisations at the fore front in helping to reduce the burden, has implemented programmes that provide support to orphans and MVC funded by two different donors. The Jali Watoto (Care for Children programme) is supported by the American people through USAID and the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR).
More than 300,000 Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in Tanzania will have easy access to basic needs, following donations of 15 vehicles valued at 943,345,309.5/-, by Pact Tanzania, to organizations dealing with OVC in the country.
Pact Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Viso, recently presented one of the 15 vehicles to Lediana Mung'ong'o, the chairperson for the parliamentary committee for HIV/AIDS Affairs on behalf of the Iringa Regional Coordinator for the Tanzania Home Economics Association (TAHEA).
The vehicle received on behalf of TAHEA is expected to serve three districts including Makete, Mufindi and Iringa Rural.
The other organisations that received the vehicles are ELCT-Geita, Faraja Trust Fund-Morogoro, Roman Catholic-Shinyanga, Roman Catholic-Kigoma, AFRIWAG-Tanga, SHDEPHA+-Kahama, Jane Goodall Institute-Kigoma, Save the Children, Plan International, World Vision and Care International.
Presenting the vehicles Viso said his organisation has so far served at least 250,000 Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) under the Global Fund Programme in 24 districts proven to have the highest rate of vulnerability, and beneficiaries of the programme are OVC aged from 0 to 18 years.
The Global OVC programme covers Geita, Makete, Songea urban, Iramba, Kigoma rural, Morogoro urban, Morogoro rural, Lushoto, Bariadi, Kahama, Same, Handeni, Hai, Arusha urban, Mufindi, Ludewa, Iringa rural, Simanjiro, Kibaha, Kilosa, Kilombero, Korogwe, Muleba and Singida urban.
“Our second programme is the Global Fund OVC programme, which is funded out of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) Round 4 HIV and Aids programme. While the programmes are supported by different donors, both programmes aim to support the Tanzania National Costed Plan of Action (NCPA) for Most Vulnerable Children. The NCPA calls for citizens to organise themselves at the local level to form MVC Committees (MVCC),” he said.
These committees, trained by the Department of Social Welfare, work in collaboration with civil society organisations (CSOs) to identify the most vulnerable children in their communities and provide them with needed services.
According to him, Pact’s aim is to “make a real difference for children, without making children different!” This is the basis of the approach to improving the quality of the services the organisation provides..
Addressing the same occasion, the Iringa Special Seat legislator (CCM), Lediana Mung'ong'o, said : “We are very grateful for the vehicle that Pact has availed and it will help the OVC centres as well as reaching orphans in more remote areas especially during rain seasons,” she said.
She said Iringa Region has 15.7 per cent of all orphans in the country thus with the vehicle, it will be possible to serve the centres in a more easy way.
Mung'ong'o also added that orphans were in great need of legal assistance as some relatives have been confiscating properties left by their parents. “This will help them in protecting their rights and property for future use,” she added.
Pact collaborates with the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) and under Jali Watoto, provides grants to district councils to work hand in hand in identifying the most vulnerable children in their communities.
This will go a long way in reducing the burden on MVC in the country, but, measures should be taken to make sure that the vehicles not only reach their intended destination but are used for the right purpose, failure to which the most vulnerable children will remain vulnerable and failing to access their basic needs.