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Lesotho: Guidelines to help OVC caregivers


[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

MASERU, 5 Apr 2006 (IRIN/PLUSNEWS) - A rapidly increasing population of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in Lesotho has forced the government and NGOs to draw up guidelines for their care.

The 'Residential Care for Vulnerable Children and Youth Guidelines and Standards' was "critical" to ensuring the safety of OVC at the hands of their caregivers, said Bertrand Duemollins, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) resident representative in Lesotho.

"The roadmap is now set; we now envisage a strong coordination and increased support to ensure that all places of safety will be able to implement these new standards."

Lesotho is one of six countries in Southern Africa suffering a humanitarian crisis driven by drought, poverty, unemployment and HIV/AIDS. According to recent statistics, the country has about 180,000 OVC, of which 100,000 are AIDS orphans. With an HIV prevalence rate of 23.2 percent, the number of OVC is set to rocket.

"There are many registered organisations around that offer shelter, care and support to the OVC. Unfortunately, in some of these centres, children are abused," said Limakatso Chisepo, director of the department of social welfare.

The guidelines seek to protect the rights of all OVC, and those orphaned by HIV/AIDS from stigma; create a culture of assuming responsibility for the care of OVC by families and communities; and address the unregulated removal of children from the streets or abusive homes, which often occurred in the absence of social workers.

"Given the vulnerability of children growing up without parental care, these children, especially girls, drop out of school," the guidelines observed. "Because of the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, the children are discriminated against and get excluded from accessing basic services such as education, in addition to suffering abuse and exploitation. Some are being denied their rightful inheritance."

According to Lesotho's First Lady, Mathato Mosisili, who has been advocating for the care of OVC, "In the Sesotho context, an orphan is everybody's responsibility; a needy person is the chief's child," but also noted that, unfortunately, the tradition of looking after the destitute no longer existed.

UNICEF's Social Policy Officer, Sefora Makepa-Tsiu, said once the guidelines had been adopted by the cabinet, the UN agency would help to facilitate their rollout and build capacity in the number of caregivers and law enforcement personnel.


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Information in this article was accurate in April 5, 2006. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.