Community initiatives to support orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in Southern Africa need more funds and technical support, according to new research.
The study conducted by the British NGO, Save the Children UK, identified a number of "bottlenecks" preventing the smooth flow of funds to support community initiatives and suggested "drip-feeding", or providing long-term funding to local groups, as an alternative.
"Southern Africa is in the middle of a protracted and unprecedented disaster, and with HIV/AIDS at its centre, the consequences for children are tragic. More than 12 million children in sub-Saharan Africa have already been orphaned, and millions more are living with sick parents," the paper noted.
Communities were "fighting back, providing support and care" to the growing number of OVC, and small-scale, local initiatives "can best understand the needs of children in their communities".
According to the research paper, 'Bottlenecks and Drip-feeds', the most "effective 'aid' currently consists of the poor helping the destitute. Out-of-pocket spending on HIV/AIDS represents the largest single component of overall HIV/AIDS spending in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa".
Despite the fact that funding for OVC has grown substantially, "too little of this money is currently reaching community initiatives". Money flow was slow, partly because of a lack of experienced administrative staff, while conditions applied to spending at all levels made it hard for community-based initiatives to access funding, and local community groups often did not have enough information about where and how to apply.
The research suggested that donors and national coordinating bodies identify indigenous mechanisms for communicating with community-based organisations, and develop effective disbursal systems, as they needed to provide small but steady amounts of resources: "drip-fed" funding.
Donors should also design and publicise a funding plan that held international and national NGOs accountable for financing and strengthening local groups. The paper recommended adopting innovative steps, such as offering "risk grants".
The US-based Firelight Foundation, which supported OVC through grants to community-based organisations, made one-third of its donations as one-year "risk grants" of US $5,000 or less to organisations that had never received donor funding. After a year, those that had implemented programmes successfully received grants again. Firelight found that risk grants strengthened leadership and increased community participation.
Save the Children also highlighted a lack of clarity about the quality of interventions and the numbers of OVC being reached, saying donors should invest in developing the ability of local groups and NGOs to increase both geographic and programmatic reach, and involve community-based groups in keeping track of spending and the number of OVC assisted.
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