RMT Impacts Lives of Children Living with HIV in Murewa, Zimbabwe

Introduction

Rozaria Memorial Trust project " Supporting Children Living with HIV in Murewa with Access to Education and Treatment" has made great impact for children living with HIV in Murewa Zimbabwe, a rural communities face extreme challenges to access treatment, education, and nutrition. Many such children live in extreme poverty, enduring social stigma and discrimination. The project directly supported almost 200 children living with HIV and AIDS, and over 2000 young people of school going age in 30 villages within the district. Continue reading

Early HIV Diagnosis Vital for Children Living with HIV

Early HIV Diagnosis Vital for Children Living with HIV

Tremendous progress has been made over the past few years in diagnosing and treatment of children living with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe. Despite this positive development, there is a bigger number of infants and children whose HIV status is not known especially in the rural communities resulting in them failing to be administered on life serving Anti-retroviral Drugs on time. It is estimated that 150 000 children aged between 0-14 years are living with HIV in Zimbabwe.

The Story of Sarah (not real name) of Masango Village, Murewa, Zimbabwe

Sarah is a six (6) year old girl from Masango Village in Murewa. She lives with her single mother who is involved in the cross boarder business for survival. With Sarah health continuing to decline and being symptomatic to HIV, she was referred to RMT by a relative after realising the hidden fear of the mother in seeking for HIV testing for the child .Some of the established reasons that inhibited testing for Sarah included the following:

  • The mother's unpreparedness to take the child for an HIV test for fear that she will face prejudice once diagnosed.
  • The mother does not know her HIV status thereby fearful of discovering that the child is infected which would likely mean that she is infected also.

 Colleta, RMT Programme Officer discussed with the mother on the health situation of the child and indicated to her the importance of HIV testing for Sarah. The mother agreed to visit Murewa General Hospital for HIV testing.

Sarah tested HIV positive with a CD 4 count of 90 which indicated that the child has suffered a severe Immuno-suppression as result of HIV. RMT catered for the medical fees for the child and continued providing psycho-social support for the mother to enable her to fully comprehend issues of paedriatic care and treatment before the child was administered on Anti-Retroviral Therapy. Through RMT school fees support system, Sandra has been enrolled for grade zero (pre-school) at Hurungwe Early Childhood Development Centre.

 After three weeks of commencement of ART, Sarah has been hospitalised at Murewa Hospital with some health complications which are usually common in HIV children with severe immunodeficiency. This will derail and slow down her road to recovery. The mother is continuously in tears, not sure whether her child would recover from the illness but for Sarah even though in pain and her tender age; she is looking forward to be discharged from the hospital so that she can be able to go to school once again.

Sarah’s story is one of the many stories of Children Living with HIV in different communities where late HIV diagnosis and initiation on ART has negatively impacted on the lives of children living with HIV. These calls for the following:

  • channelling resources by government and other bilateral partners in the rural health facilities for early infant testing and HIV treatment
  • Raise awareness at family and community levels through advocacy and social mobilization on importance of early HIV diagnosis and treatment in children
  • Strengthening of Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission thereby completely eradicating chances of vertical transmission.
  • Equitable, affordable and comprehensive HIV services for children especially in the resource constraint communities.

Although there is a growing recognition that stepping up efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission would decrease the need for paedriatic treatment, it is likely that HIV will continue to infect many thousand of children in Zimbabwe for years to come. Given this situation, testing and treatment facilities for children need to be improved and made widely available in the rural health facilities. This will enhance the lives of children living with HIV through access to treatment and in the process helping to reach the goal towards Universal Access on ART.

Rozaria Memorial Trust acknowledges that achievement in this regard would significantly increase the number of lives that can be saved by early initiation of treatment for HIV positive infants and children.

By Kudakwashe Dizha, RMT Coordinator.

“Reduce Military Expenditure and Invest in Health, Education and Technology”, Gumbonzvanda Makes the Call at UN

Founder and Chairperson of Rozaria Memorial Trust, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda gave a strong and impassioned statement at a special event on Women and Children’s Health during the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. She called on governments and partners to invest in women and girls, reduce military expenditure and end all wars. She addressed the meeting as the General Secretary of the World YWCA, representing the voices of civil society. See Full speech  below:

“On behalf of women and men of the world, from civil society ~ of diverse ages and faiths, people living with and affected by HIV, community workers, professional groups and rights advocates, among others ~ we stand in solidarity with those who have died, and are dying at this moment due to preventable diseases.

Each day, our hearts bleed as we bury our mothers who die while giving birth; knowing this loss could have been prevented, understanding that this single death has multiple negative effects on our families, our communities, our economies and our social fabric. We find it unacceptable, that in today's world our children are unable to celebrate their first birthday in many parts of the world.

We stand here to reiterate our call for a world that protects the basic and inherent right to health and to a life with dignity. We rise together with all of you TODAY, – ourselves to taking all necessary measures towards this end, using the resources, skills, knowledge, expertise, inner quest for life and responsible leadership in each one of us.

On this first anniversary of the Global Strategy on Women and Children's Health, with regret for the lives we have failed to save and fortified by existing commitments to MDGs, CEDAW, CRC and other instruments, we continue to strive for:

  • A world where all women and all children enjoy all human rights, and especially the right to health.
  • Where governments prioritise resources for reproductive, maternal and newborn health as a development issue.
  • Where global citizens and partners ensures delivery on commitments and pledges to every woman and every child.

On behalf of the World YWCA; a global women's rights movement leading change in the heart of local communities, reaching some 25 million women and girls in 125 countries, we commit to:

  1. Mobilise political support, engage new constituencies and promote accountability to women and girls.
  2. Advocate for and monitor the implementation of key global, regional and national commitments on women and children’s health.
  3. Deliver effective programmes and services on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, violence against women and HIV through provision of safe and empowering spaces for women and girls in 70 countries.
  4. Invest $2 million dollars over five years through the YWCA Power to Change Fund to secure women's health, in addition to individual programmes run and resourced by our member associations
  5. Contribute an estimated 1 billion hours of time over the next five years through volunteer work in over 22,000 communities, providing care, support, counselling, information and accompaniment.

Many organisations, including the World YWCA, World Vision, Women Deliver, Save the Children, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and others, are working collaboratively on their commitments through the PMNCH stand; translating them into impactful actions in communities as we develop the NGO Accountability framework for women and children's health.

As governments you have pledged not only funding, but policy and service oriented actions. One day, I will go to my village in Murewa, in my country Zimbabwe, and "give birth at our local clinic without paying maternity fees". It is these practical and far-reaching policy commitments that we seek to implement.

Today can only have real MEANING if we turn each commitment and each pledge into doable actions; with urgency, with passion, with efficiency and with accountability. This is possible and this is achievable ~ if we focus on some tangible goals such as: invest in health workers; immunise our children; register vital events, provide family planning and sexuality education, reproductive health services, empower women and girls, and invest in young people.

I encourage you, I urge you; I implore you today, individually and collectively, to at least:

  • Increase resource allocations to health, education, technology, infrastructure and agriculture and yes, reduce military expenditure; end conflict and wars.
  • Ensure stronger national accountability, including the role of parliament and civil society;
  • Embrace technology and innovation in health service delivery.
  • Focus on adolescent girls and young women, who are at a critical juncture in their lives, where we can make a real difference.
  • Go to scale and scale up. We know what works; we just need the resources and commitment to make it happen. We need to scale up for success, results, impact and sustainability.
  • Empower communities, by investing in women and girls, and supporting citizens' voices in turning the tide on maternal and infant mortality.

I am hopeful and I am encouraged that together we are shaping a new narrative on these MDGs. We all have to simply remain true to our world. Lets deliver together and with women”.

Contact: nyaradzai.gumbonzvanda@worldywca.org