Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Orphans & Vulnerable Children's (OVC) Program

Holistic Housing Solutions

for Orphans and Vulnerable Children


1.5 million Orphans, 500,000 due to HIV/AIDS

Unable to ignore this urgent need, HFH Mozambique has developed a program that provides shelter for the poorest of the poor – orphaned and vulnerable children and their caretakers. But merely putting a roof over their heads does not address the multi-dimensional needs vulnerable children have for legal protection, clean water, proper sanitation, food, safety, education and social supports. By partnering with other organisational partners, HFH Mozambique is able to provide more comprehensive support for these families.

The proposed 3-year project will provide safe, healthy and legally protected shelter for 3,600 families – 10,800 orphans and vulnerable children – in 10-15 rural communities in Maputo (South), Manica (Central), Nampula (North) Provinces in the North, Central and Southern region. Each house includes a ventilated pit latrine for improved sanitation; cement floors help keep out pests and moisture; mosquito nets to protect from malaria; and a supply of Certeza water treatment liquid to ensure access to clean drinking water.

The use of local materials and reliance on local workers helps ensure that economic resources remain within the community. Partner organisations will help protect the inheritance rights of an additional 3,000 children and will provide health education workshops to increase knowledge about HIV/AIDs prevention, care and treatment; malaria prevention; and foster changes in behaviours that can have a positive impact on family health.

In order to achieve this exponential growth, HFH Mozambique will strengthen its own organizational capacity through the opening of two new regional offices and the development of a data tracking system that will help measure the impacts of project on the health, education and income of families. The total projected budget is USD 6,560,447.

(picture: children in front of a new home)


Habitat for Humanity Mozambique (HFH Mozambique) has built over 300 houses for poor families since its founding in 2000. HFH Mozambique’s traditional model of providing affordable home loans for poor families meant that there was a growing subset of poor families not being reached. Their resources had been so exhausted that even paying USD2-4 per month was beyond their means. In 2004, HFH Mozambique began focusing specifically on those vulnerable groups. With funds from private donors and USAID matching funds through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, HFH Mozambique centred its efforts on the housing related needs of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) specifically. Currently, all of the houses built in Mozambique are fully subsidised (i.e. free housing) and are designed to reach the lowest income families caring for orphans impacted by HIV/AIDS and/or other illnesses.

The OVC Program expansion is a key component of HFH Mozambique’s three-year (FY09-11) strategic plan. This growth includes strengthening community capacity to serve exponentially more vulnerable families in subsequent years. Active projects are underway in the Southern and Central regions and, in FY09, HFH Mozambique will develop its first initiatives in the Northern region from an office in Nampula. Partnerships with community-based organisations, other NGOs and government agencies are critical to provide more holistic support. As the project grows, more partnerships will be formed.

In addition to the OVC program, HFH Mozambique also plans to develop programs in Housing Microfinance, Land and Asset Security and Advocacy as well as providing technical assistance for community resettlements and shelter interventions that mitigate loss in flood and cyclone prone areas.


Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 172 / 177 on the United Nation’s Development Report. Over 70% of the population lives below the poverty line, with 38% surviving on less than USD1/day.

An estimated 1.7 million Mozambicans are living with HIV/AIDS and the prevalence rate is currently 16% among 15-49 year olds, according to the Ministry of Health. Every single day there are about 500 new HIV/AIDS infections. Youths aged 15-24 are the most heavily affected and account for 60% of new HIV infections.

UNICEF estimates at least 500,000 of the 1.5 million orphans in Mozambique have lost their parents to AIDS and at least 100,000 children under the age of 15 are living with HIV/AIDS. By the year 2010, it is expected that nearly half of the 1 million maternal orphans in Mozambique will be orphaned due to HIV and AIDS.

The impact of this epidemic is profound.

Orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) are more likely to live in poor households headed by women, elderly people and/or by an uneducated person. Some households are even headed by a child, or the children have to act as the main provider due to the illness or disability of the adult family members.

They have very limited means of generating income and thus often have to resort to risky coping strategies, such as early marriage, transactional sex and hazardous child labour. They also have limited access to basic services such as health, education, food, legal, financial and psychosocial services. In addition to these challenges, children orphaned as a result of AIDS are often living with social stigma and discrimination and potentially face exclusion from their communities. OVC are also prone to discrimination in the allocation of resources because they are not direct biological descendants of the household head. Inheritance claims by relatives often lead to dispossession of property in child headed households.

The average monthly income of an elderly caretaker in rural Mozambique is USD12. The estimated monthly cost of looking after an orphan is about USD21, while caring for someone living with AIDS costs USD30. Unable to meet their most basic needs for food, other critical necessities like shelter are unattainable. Renting is prohibitively expensive and the labour-intensive repair of existing structures can be an extreme hardship for sick or elderly caretakers. As a result, many OVC families live in unsanitary, temporary housing conditions with mud floors and leaking roofs. These conditions are conducive to the spread of disease and pose an acute problem for children and those with HIV-weakened immune systems.

Less than 20% of Mozambique’s rural population has access to adequate sanitation facilities. Some share a common facility but most families simply relieve themselves outdoors. Only 36% of the population has access to safe drinking water. Lack of proper sanitation and hygienic practices increases the risk of diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. According to the WHO, “no single type of intervention has greater overall impact upon national development and public health than does the provision of safe drinking water and proper disposal of human excreta.” Recent studies also indicate that access to potable water can delay the emergence of opportunistic diseases among people who are living with HIV/AIDS and make treatment with anti-retrovirals more effective.

Another major health risk is malaria. Currently, malaria accounts for 60% of children in hospitals and 30% of hospital deaths. The World Health Organisation estimates that insecticide treated mosquito nets can cut malaria transmission by 60% and child deaths by a fifth. Sadly, most families cannot afford mosquito nets.


Living a Normal Life

HFH Mozambique strives to create a more holistic program that meets the complex and interrelated needs of vulnerable children and their families. While project design methods and some components are being standardized, housing models, training courses and community development activities differ and mould to the needs of each community. The project design model requires a few weeks of participatory research in each community in order to set up a program that will function at a local economic level. Project components include:
§ Healthy housing and latrines for families
§ Family health education on HIV/AIDS, malaria and other related health issues
§ Inheritance planning and writing of wills to ensure the house remains an asset for the children
§ Provision of mosquito nets and water treatment kits
§ Partnerships with local community organizations that identify and care for vulnerable families through food, training and basic social support.

Targeted families are considered the “poorest of the poor” from a local community perspective. Families are identified by the government and local community organizations as families in most need. Usually parents are (or were) people living with HIV and must use whatever income they have on transport to hospitals and food for children at the expense of other basic necessities such as shelter. Beneficiaries will include:
§ 10,800 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and their caretakers will benefit from safe, healthy housing.
§ 19,800 children will be protected from asset grabbing by legal inheritance plans. The inheritance rights of 10,800 OVC will be protected directly by HFH Mozambique trainings and assistance and an additional 9,000 OVC protected by partners running inheritance workshops and initiatives after being trained by HFH Mozambique.
§ 3,600 families caring for 10,800 OVC will benefit from clean water treated by Certeza tablets, treated mosquito nets, improved sanitation with VIP latrines; training in home maintenance and HIV/AIDS
§ An estimated 10 trainers from five different CBOs or NGOs will be trained as trainers on the inheritance curriculum.
§ HFH Mozambique funds provide work and financing for 30-50 people in each community all located within 2-5 km of the family homes (likely 300-500 contracted workers by end of project based on an average of 5-10 homes constructed per week in each community).

Ultimately, the intention of the program is to keep OVC within their communities by strengthening the resources and ability of caretakers and others in the community. HFH Mozambique does not believe that institutional orphanages are a solution, unless there are no other alternatives. Taking a child away from the extended family structure of neighbours, grandparents and relatives in the community is more likely to cause trauma and pain. With their own home, the children will have a base from which to succeed and a network of neighbours to help them. And by involving community based partners at every stage of selection, design and implementation, community ownership and solidarity are reinforced.

Home designs provide enhancements like cement foundations to traditional reed and thatch structures to increase durability while allowing families to remain in homes that do not separate them from the community in aesthetic or financial appearance. Giving widows and children an asset worth hundreds or thousands of dollars can actually increase their vulnerability. If the community perceives that the child is better off than the surrounding families it will be less likely to offer the ongoing daily support so desperately need.


Rural Housing & Development

Water & Sanitation

Gender Equality & Women's Rights

HIV/AIDS - Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Research & Capacity Building

Communication Development & Transformation

Volunteer Mobilisation

Vulnerable Groups: Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Caregivers
Families must meet the Mozambican government’s basic criteria for OVC:
· Orphans are children who have lost one or more parent
· Vulnerable children are children with sick parents, abandoned children, and/or children living in economic hardship situations (lack of food, etc.).

Health: Insecticide treated mosquito nets
HFH Mozambique aims to prevent malaria by ensuring that every household member sleeps under an Insecticide Treated Net. Nets are provided free of charge because otherwise the targeted beneficiaries would not be able to afford them. HFH Mozambique has partnered with Population Services International (PSI) since 2006 to train local and national staff to lead workshops on the importance of and proper usage and mounting of treated mosquito nets.

Water: Certeza Water Treatments kits
HFH Mozambique’s project partner PSI will also train staff on Certeza, a water treatment liquid that can be incorporated into common household practices to make water appropriate for drinking and cleaning vegetables.

HFH Mozambique plans to cover the costs of a year supply of Certeza for each beneficiary family. If the families appreciate the benefits of Certeza in providing clean drinking water, the hope is that that family will continue to pay for it after the subsidy ends. The cost for a month’s supply of Certeza is 8 MT (USD 0.33). HFH Mozambique will institute a quarterly family monitoring form to track product use and family health indicators over the course of the three-year project.

Education: Women and Inheritance Planning
Families (mostly single mothers and grandmothers) learn about property and land rights and discuss the necessity of protecting their assets from relatives and neighbours. The training includes a day of discussion and learning about the laws and rights of Mozambicans and their children, traditional practices and their impacts, and discussions of peoples’ feelings about all the subjects. In every training group conducted to date, at least one woman has already been removed from her previous home, which creates lively discussion.

HFH Mozambique facilitates the process of writing a legal will by bringing a jurist/magistrate to the community to talk to each family and fill out the forms necessary for families to certify their succession wishes in a formal government document. These official documents and the local leaders' participation, along with large groups of women with knowledge of their legal rights, will help protect the children from property grabbing.

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