By Mbatjiua Ngavirue
The problem of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) is so huge that everyone needs to lend a helping hand, which the Municipality of Otjiwarongo did by creating its Multi-purpose Health Centre.
During their recent outreach programme to the Otjozondjupa Region, Members of parliament had the opportunity of visiting the centre.
Otjiwarongo Municipality Community Development Officer, Agatha Moetie, told the MPs the municipality felt a social obligation not to sit back and only wait for the Government to take action.
Instead, they decided to go ahead and build the centre with the help of partners such as the City of Heusden in the Netherlands, Dutch NGO VNG International and AMICAALL (Alliance for Mayors on HIV/Aids in Africa).
The multipurpose centre includes a day care facility, where they teach children to follow a hygiene programme.
Facilities are also available for the children to have a nice bath and change into clean clothing.
Briefing the MPs, Moetie said one of the biggest problems they have with OVC is that caregivers do not have the necessary identity documents to access government grants.
In some cases, the children became orphans because the parents died of HIV/Aids and they also became infected with the virus.
The Multi-Purpose Health Centre is only a day-care centre, and she complained about the lack of places of safety for vulnerable children.
In some cases, care-givers abuse children – particularly girls – but the children still have to go back to the caregiver at the end of the day.
A big problem faced by HIV-positive mothers is that the Ministry of Health and Social Services only provides Nevirapine to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
The ministry however does not provide baby formula to prevent mothers from infecting their babies through breast milk after they are born.
The multi-purpose centre in Otjiwarongo is fortunate because donors in the Netherlands have raised funds for the centre to run a small baby formula programme.
Currently, 27 mothers benefit from the programme, but it only accommodates babies between 0 and 9 months, because when they are over 9 months they can start eating normal food.
In a related development, the Otjiwarongo municipality has started a gardening project for people affected by HIV/Aids.
Local Aids coordinator John Hinda heads the Multi-Purpose Health Centre, assisted by caregiver Monica Tjehiua.
Hinda said currently they only received funding from their Dutch partners, churches and regional electricity distributor Cenored.
So far, 120 people have benefited since the programme started.
The Femidom female condoms at the centre ran out despite complaints in that town also that the condoms are very noisy.
The centre receives a shipping container of second-hand clothing from Dutch partners every year, which they use to assist OVC and families.
They also use clothing to assist victims of shack fires after referral from a social worker.
Hinda emphasised that they wanted to make the centre into a genuine “community centre”.
“We invite the community to take charge. They can hold workshops and community meetings here on HIV/Aids, women and children’s issues.” Apart from personal hygiene, the centre gives children bible studies and drama lessons and helps them with their homework.
“All the children who attend are orphans but there are many more out there who do not come because of the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.”