Orphans and vulnerable children from more than 80,000 households in Zimbabwe are set to benefit from a three-year government and donor-funded programme to cushion them from the worst effects of poverty.
Led by Zimbabwe's Ministry of Labour and Social Services with support from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the governments of the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, and the European Commission (EC), the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Phase II, will take a three-pronged approach to reaching children most at risk - with cash transfers, educational assistance through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) and child protection services.
Sarah Mutodi, 19, from Harare is grateful for the educational support she received under the first phase of the National Action Plan (NAP), which was launched in 2005 and drew on a multi-donor funded pool of US$85 million to reach half a million children, according to UNICEF.
“I lost both my parents in an accident the year I was supposed to sit for my A-levels and could not have completed my high school studies if I had not received assistance under BEAM,” said Mutodi, who is now studying for an engineering diploma.
However, the social protection mechanism has not been able to reach all of the country's more than one million orphans and Zimbabwe's economic meltdown of the past decade has considerably strained the ability of families and communities to support orphans and children affected by HIV.
Josphat Phiri, 72, and his 60-year-old wife, from the low income suburb of Kuwadzana, about 15km west of Harare, have been caring for their four grandchildren since both of their daughters died from HIV-related illnesses.
Phiri lost his job on a commercial farm in 2001 after it changed ownership as part of the country's controversial land reform programme, and with no steady source of income the elderly couple rely on handouts from neighbours and fellow church members to get by.
“All my grandchildren are supposed to be in school, but only one is currently receiving help under BEAM. With the other three, it has proved to be hard,” Phiri told IRIN.
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The inclusion of cash transfers in the second phase of NAP could provide some relief to families like Phiri's. According to UNICEF, households headed by elderly people or children, or with large numbers of dependants or chronically ill people, will be eligible for monthly cash transfers of US$25.
In a country where a substantial part of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, the subsidy is aimed at helping families to meet some of their immediate food and health care needs.
“Protecting children from poverty, harm and abuse begins with reducing their vulnerabilities; cash transfers are one of the critical components that will contribute to the realization of children’s rights,” Peter Salama, the UNICEF country representative, said at the launch of NAP II.
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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions