By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The Church Alliance For Orphans (CAFO) held a press conference on Saturday to announce that the United States Government has awarded them one of the first New Partner Initiative (NPI) grants to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS. For this purpose, the Director of CAFO, dr Henry Platt, specially travelled to Washington DC for World AIDS Day, and met US President George W. Bush at the announcement ceremony for the new NPI grants. “The grant to CAFO under the New Partnership Initiative will further strengthen the capacity of churches and faith-based organizations throughout Namibia to expand community-based services to orphans and other vulnerable children. The fact that CAFO is one of only 23 organizations selected world-wide to participate in this new initiative, is a measure of CAFO’s competence, commitment and capacity to further expand the good work the organization is doing on behalf of Namibia’s children,” said Gary Newton, the director of USAID in Namibia as he congratulated CAFO at the occasion. According to Newton, CAFO will receive over N$7 million in funding under this new NPI grant. “With these funds, CAFO will expand services to orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) in Namibia. CAFO follows a holistic, faith-based approach to caring for OVC that includes counselling along with education, food programs and other material support. It seeks to strengthen capacity to help OVC within communities and traditional Namibian extended family culture. CAFO’s member churches will work with its various committees to implement its nutrition and education programs,” said Platt. Thus far, some 8 200 OVC have benefited directly from CAFO’s programs during the past two years. “This support included: food, clothing, blankets, equipment for soup kitchens, and improvements to facilities where these children live and participate in programs. CAFO also supplied technical assistance in counselling, financial management, fundraising, grant-writing and other capacity building activities at the local, regional, and national levels. CAFO funded over 100 projects for OVC during this period and distributed educational information to both its stakeholders and the general public,” the CAFO director said. CAFO is Namibia’s first interfaith networking organization that is dedicated to meeting the needs of vulnerable children in their respective communities. According to Platt, since its launch in 2002 CAFO’s membership has grown to 368 organizations made up of 68 CAFO committees present in 68 towns and villages throughout Namibia’s 13 regions. The organization has been a sub-partner in the PEPFAR Namibia program and has now graduated to partner status with this award. Further information made available indicates that currently there are an estimated 162 000 OVC in Namibia. “In 2006, the US Government provided N$33 million to support over 58 000 OVC and help implement Namibia’s National Plan of Action for OVC. Under PEPFAR, the United States Government – through its Namibian partners – has provided N$870 million in support to Namibia’s national HIV/AIDS program between 2004 and 2006,” Newton said.