By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK In what is so far the biggest financial boost to the plight of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) at one go, Namibia yesterday received N$21,7 million from the British government. The three-year major investment was given to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Namibia in order to alleviate the OVC crisis situation in the country. Five years ago, Namibia had about 97 000 orphans under the age of 15. However, estimates are that by 2021, the country will have over 250 000 OVC. After an agreement was signed in London early this week, the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) gave the major investment to Namibia in support of OVC as well as for life skills programmes in the country. The initiative is part of a grant totalling 18,4 million British pounds, equivalent to US$32 million, to six African countries for the next three years. These countries alongside Namibia are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland. Announcing the latest grant at a press briefing yesterday, UNICEF country representative Khin-Sandi Lwin said the funding will go towards the Government / UNICEF country programme focussing on HIV/Aids, especially for children affected by HIV/Aids for care, support and services that they need from extended families, communities and the Government. “The funds will go towards programmes of community based organisations in building capacity, where we are looking to move away from a current charity approach towards building capacity,” said Lwin. For instance, this will include providing funds for buying school uniforms for OVC, capacity building for schools to exempt such children from paying school fees, creation of income generating projects for non-governmental organisations dealing with OVC to feed and sustain themselves. At community level, this will also mean that UNICEF will provide financial assistance for a community group to buy a tractor to till the soil for the elderly who are unable to do the job, since most young people migrate to the capital. This will be carried out through a programme to be implemented by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare as well as the Ministry of Education. Primarily the programme will look into strengthening family and community based response to the growing challenge of OVC in the country, increased access to essential services like health, education and protection as well as boosting national capacity to protect the most vulnerable children of the country. British High Commissioner to Namibia Alasdair McDermott said that DFID saw the vital importance of tackling the OVC crisis on a regional level in Southern Africa. “It’s a large sum of money for a very large problem that will take many years to address,” he added. In some cases, problems may arise to the fact that there are multiple agencies and organisations dealing with the same problem of OVC and HIV/Aids. It is for this reason that the British government decided to channel this major investment through an established institution like UNICEF. “We want to see money being deployed so that it starts to deliver services to those people affected by the problem,” said McDermott. Ultimately, programmes assisted through these funds will help local communities to manage and cope with the challenges facing them in dealing with the impact of HIV/Aids. The number of OVC with access to services such as basic education and health will also increase.
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