Uganda’s vulnerable children have brighter future thanks to SUNRISE

Uganda’s SUNRISE project, managed by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, has helped more than 374,000 orphans and vulnerable children over the last five years.

Uganda’s SUNRISE-OVC project*, managed by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, has helped more than 374,000 orphans and vulnerable children over the last five years. The project, which was funded by USAID, officially ended in June.

Dr Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the Alliance, handed the project over to Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development at a ceremony on 26 June. The Ugandan Red Cross has also taken over responsibility for running some of the services set up by the project.

Since June 2010, SUNRISE has reached 80 districts, covering 71 per cent of the country. Its services included child protection, care, legal support, family re-integration and psychosocial support. It also reached one million children indirectly, by strengthening government systems to support and safeguard vulnerable children.

Supporting livelihoods and education

Josephine Namakula (57) as cared for her three grandchildren Steven Ssali (6), Grace Nantongo (8) and Martin Segawa (11) since the death of her son, the children’s father. She lives in a wattle house at Kiringete sub-county, Mpigi district. Thanks to systems set up by SUNRISE, the future of the family’s livelihood and the children’s education is more assured.

The children are now enrolled in school and Grace’s grandmother is enrolled in a farmers’ group of 15 households. The Red Cross supplied with them with 500,000 shillings (about US$190) to start up small village banks and the group saves through the Kiringente sub-county saving scheme, set up by the government. This ties in with SUNRISE’s objective of linking families to other service providers and government programmes. This work will continue to support orphans and vulnerable children in this community into the future.

Protecting the rights of children

Speaking at the official closing ceremony for the project, Dr Bermejo said: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its weakest citizens. If that is true, there is no task more important than ensuring the rights of orphans and vulnerable people are respected, their welfare protected, and that their lives are free from fear and want.

“The circumstances that shape the life of every child were laid by his or her parents. Through what we do today, we too are laying the foundations for the future and we must consider the wellbeing of each child as the heart of the country’s future.

“The International HIV/AIDS Alliance was selected as lead implementer for this ambitious project, we are immensely proud to have participated. We have achieved wonderful goals. For example, we were required to directly reach 350,000 vulnerable children and we have reached 370,000.”

This number is just the tip of the iceberg because the project has strengthened systems for supporting and protecting children across Uganda. This means it has benefited Uganda’s entire population of six million orphans and vulnerable children, and all other children in the country.

Dr Bermejo added: “That multiplier effect is only possible when the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, together with local government, carries on the best practices established. It is upon this nation to increasingly step up its priorities and invest more in its children, especially orphans and vulnerable children.”

Training for government workers

As part of the project, SUNRISE trained voluntary community support workers for families with orphans and vulnerable children, called para-social workers. They complement the role of the government’s community development officers as frontline workers for child protection and care. They live in the same villages as the children, which helps them to identify problems quickly.

Wilson Mululi Mukasa, minister of gender, labour and social development, said: “SUNRISE has also built capacity of probation officers, who have been trained in many aspects, all of which have improved their performance. My humble request is that the Ministry will find ways of continuing what the project has established. I am glad to know that local government effectively planned, managed and coordinated the implementation of comprehensive services for orphans and vulnerable children at all levels.

“We thank International HIV/AIDS Alliance UK for their support and effort. The government hopes to work with you again.”

*The project’s full name is Strengthening the Uganda National Response for Implementation of Services for Orphans and other Vulnerable Children.

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