Breaking Complex Barriers to Care and Treatment for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC)

Laurinda with her daughter Elisabeth.
Laurinda with her daughter Elisabeth.

Elisabeth, now 8 years old, was born with a disability, which also causes her to frequently fall ill. Her father, like some others in her community of Cambodhja in Manica Province, viewed her disability as caused by evil spirits and witchcraft. Her father abandoned Elisabeth, her mother (Laurinda José), and her sister (Raimuda) when Elisabeth was just 2 years old. Through FCC project interventions, Elisabeth and her family broke through the barriers faced by those  stigmatized by disabilities.

Two years after her husband left the family, Laurinda re-married and had two more children (Ginalda and Pedro). The family of six depended on subsistence farming and small sales of their produce; caring for Elisabeth strained the family’s resources. Each day, Laurinda had to carry Elisabeth with her to the market where she sold her produce.

However, the family’s income began to decline. Laurinda gradually noticed that customers were avoiding her table in the market because of the stigma associated with Elisabeth’s disability. Elisabeth was visibly frail and sick, and, even at home, neighbors avoided the family.

“I realized that people did not buy my merchandise because of my daughter’s health, and this was a problem because I still had to take care of Elisabeth and my other children.” – Laurinda

Needing to provide for the family and increase their produce sales, Laurinda resorted to leaving Elisabeth at home with her 3-year-old daughter, Ginalda, when her older daughter, Raimuda (12 years old), was in school. If Ginalda were ever ill herself, Laurinda would lock Elisabeth in the house and leave her alone there for the day while she was at the market.

Laurinda preparing to sell her
products at the market.

One of her more distant neighbours noticed the young sisters often home alone and reported the situation to a member of the Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC). The CCPC contacted a community case worker (CCW) from ANDA, a local implementing partner of WEI/Bantwana’s FCC project, to follow up with the family. The CCW began to visit the home regularly, as well as to visit Laurinda at the market. The CCW provided the family with psychosocial support and assessed the services needed by each family member.

Elisabeth, visibly frail, was referred to a local clinic for nutritional screening and was  subsequently treated for malnutrition. At the clinic, a psychologist provided additional psychosocial support (PSS) for Laurinda and her children. After a few counselling sessions, the service provider discovered that both Laurinda and Elisabeth were HIV+ and had abandoned ARV treatment after feeling stigmatized by the community. Both Laurinda and Elisabeth have since resumed ARV treatment and Laurinda continues intensive counselling to ensure her treatment adherence.

“I am very grateful for the PSS because I had lost hope for Elisabeth’s life. I spent a lot of money going to the healers and they said that it was feitiçaria (witchcraft). I tried their treatments but I never considered the hospital as the place I should get assistance. Now, Elisabeth is no longer sick; she is happy and I am happy as well.” – Laurinda

Laurinda was also linked to a parenting a group where she now attends Saturday sessions and learns about topics related to childcare, including children’s rights. The parenting group also provided educational sessions on nutrition and demonstrations on proper feeding.

After months of nutritional rehabilitation and ARV treatment, Elisabeth has begun to improve significantly. Elisabeth walks around on her own and plays with her siblings. She no longer stays home alone: Laurinda has been linked to a community Early Childhood Development (ECD) Center, established by the FCC project, where Elisabeth has the opportunity o socialize with other children and be cared for by a trained Animadora while her mother is at the market.

“The sessions in the community have enlightened me. I now know it is abuse to leave my child locked at home alone. Taking Elisabeth to the ECD Center is the best choice and gives her the opportunity to learn for the first time- she never went to school before.” – Laurinda

In addition to returning to ARV treatment, Laurinda joined a savings group facilitated by the FCC project. Though she stopped work when Elisabeth was undergoing malnutrition treatment at the hospital, she has since taken out a loan and has resumed her business.

 

The USAID-funded Força à Comunidade e Crianças (FCC) project is an initiative aimed at improving and expanding evidenced-based models of integrated support for orphans and vulnerable children and their households. The Bantwana Initiative of World Education, Inc. implements USAID FCC in collaboration with the Government of Mozambique and a range of local implementing partners to reach over 100,000 vulnerable children and adolescents with integrated services to help them thrive and grow into productive and healthy adults.