Lesotho: Orphans, Vulnerable Children, and the Role of the Private Sector

Lesotho: Orphans, Vulnerable Children, and the Role of the Private Sector

{Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, Lesotho}Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, Lesotho

This post originally appeared on the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Regional Exchange (SHARE) as "The role of the private sector in responding to OVC issues".

As we travelled to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, I had mixed emotions about the National Conference on Vulnerable Children I was going to attend. Issues of orphans and vulnerable children are very close to my heart, as I have first-hand experience of growing up with a cousin who is an orphan due to HIV and AIDS. She was fortunate to grow up within a family structure and to get the best education, but this is not the case for many children who are orphaned and vulnerable because of HIV and AIDS.

Governments, development partners, civil society organizations, and community-based organizations have introduced valuable initiatives and programs responding to issues of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Sadly, most of these efforts are supported by donors, which raises concerns about the sustainability of these efforts. This is of great concern given that donor funding is temporal. Perhaps this is an opportunity to meaningfully engage private sector in the well-being of orphans and vulnerable children, and ensure that the private sector is motivated to get involved. Meaningful engagement with the private sector will contribute to longer-term and more sustained efforts for children in need.

[Beatrice Akintade, of the Centre for Impacting Lives (CIL), at the Lesotho National Conference on Vulnerable Children.] Beatrice Akintade, of the Centre for Impacting Lives (CIL), at the Lesotho National Conference on Vulnerable Children.

The Lesotho National Conference on Vulnerable Children highlighted examples of how community-based organizations have been engaged to contribute to the welfare of OVC in the country. The Centre for Impacting Lives, a community-based organization in Lesotho, has a partnership with the private sector to train vulnerable young people in vocational skills. Once trained, these young people are employed within the private sector. This is a great example of how the private sector should be encouraged to be part of a proactive approach and invest in a system that prevents children from falling through the cracks.

To meaningfully engage and lobby the private sector, clear strategies should be developed and organizations should coordinate themselves to form a strong advocacy voice. Understandably, the private sector has concerns about how its funding is spent. This relates to having inadequate monitoring and evaluation systems in the country—another area to work on. In addition, the donor community should allow for flexibility in its funding to support strategies that engage the private sector—promoting long-term investment and a broader spectrum of resources.

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The first Lesotho National Conference on Vulnerable Children, December 8-11, 2014, was organized by the Government of Lesotho, with support from US Agency for International Development (USAID)/The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through Management Sciences for Health’s Building Local Capacity for Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa Project, and in collaboration with UNICEF, UNAIDS, and other development partners.

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