Strengthening Resilience and Improving Social Cohesion in HIV-affected Communities in Homa Bay County, Kenya

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Strengthening Resilience and Improving Social Cohesion in HIV-affected Communities in Homa Bay County, Kenya

5-year-old Fidel with his aunt in front of their house in Koliech

Fidel is only five years old and has experienced more suffering than others in a lifetime. His father took his own life after his HIV/AIDS diagnosis when Fidel was only six months old.  In desperation, his mother, who had also become infected, placed the baby in a bush and hung herself in a tree. A neighbor found the baby there and took Fidel to his aunt, who took him in.

Tony also lost his father to the AIDS epidemic. His mother was bequeathed to another man, a common practice among the Luo tribe until today. She was murdered after her new husband claimed to have contracted HIV/AIDS, blaming his wife. Tony now lives with his 60-year-oldgrandmother, who is also sick with HIV/AIDS.

Both boys share the same terrible fate. Both live with relatives who are barely able to provide adequate care to them. And both now live with HIV-infected and unemployed female relatives. They live with the fear of losing their only caregiver again and then being completely on their own.

Repeated loss of caregivers

In the small community of Koliech in Homa Bay County, there are many children who share the fate of Fidel and Tony. They lost their parents at an early age and live with relatives who often take care of several children and do not have the resources or capacity  to provide for them adequately.  As a result of extreme poverty, lack of access to health care and traumatic experiences in their early childhood, these children have little chance in life.  On top of that, they are constantly threatened with the loss of accommodation and care if more of their caregivers die. They are also particularly vulnerable to abuse and violence in their foster families and in public spaces. Some also stay in their parents’ house and then live together with other children without an adult caregiver.


Strengthening resilience

With a new project DfA aims to tackle some of these issues. The objective is to strengthen resilience of HIV-affected communities in Homa Bay County. This will be achieved by a combination of two approaches: firstly, the economic resilience of households which have taken in HIV-affected orphans will be improved by supporting income generating activities such as poultry farming, small businesses, agriculture, gardening etc. The idea is that this will lead to an increase of capacity that will transfer to their children and improve care.

Secondly, DfA aims to combat stigmatization of HIV/Aids which is putting a severe strain on the social cohesion of the target communities. This will be achieved by providing information through seminars, visits, panel discussions and so on.