News in South Africa

News in South Africa

OVC| From management to prevention Part 2

Children on the way to school

Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC)

From Management to Prevention

South Africa.

By Anita Marshall:  Regional OVC Support Initiative (ROSI).


As citizens we have a responsibility to address abuse of power by any sector of the community, particularly abuse against our most vulnerable sectors, children in general and orphans in particular. 

Women’s rights and children’s rights are closely tied in with the growth of the epidemic in Africa.  When Uganda shocked the world by bringing about a big turn-around in the growth rate of the epidemic within a short space of time, I spoke to some people who had worked in Uganda and some Ugandan men, who worked in the field of HIV/AIDS education.

Two issues were reported as the main contributors to reducing the spread of HIV infection (and ultimately orphan-hood) and they were;

a)     The country’s leadership, including political and religious leaders, was vocal on the dangers of unsafe sex.

b)     The Ugandan men accepted that they had power in sexual relations and ensured condom use and safe sex with all partners. (long term and casual).

It is hardly spoken about, but men have an enormous role to play in reducing the number of orphans in any country.  If we accept that men have authority in households and communities then we should also look at the responsibility that this authority holds.

Sexual abuse of women and children is not confined to S.A and unprotected sexual practices are often touted as a ‘cultural’ right.  This includes multiple partners and cross-generational partners. The need to turn this around is clearly spelled out by the statistics.

A lot more adult women are being tested according to the rapid appraisal report.  If we plan to turn the epidemic around, men need to take a lot more responsibility in getting tested and practicing safer sex in addition to reducing the rates of co-ersion, rape and sexual violence in our country. 


A recently introduced male-clinic in the Western Cape, reports high numbers of men attending the clinic.  Creative approaches are clearly needed in addressing some of the reasons that men do not voluntarily and without a health concern, have their HIV status checked.  The inability of many men, who have authority in relationships, to take full responsibility for the consequences of unprotected sex has enormous consequences for children in our society.  The number of child-headed households bears this out.


Table 6: Number of children in child-headed households receiving services from HCBC ( Home Community Based Care) projects by province.

South Africa

85 242

    Eastern Cape

18 037

    Free State

1 760


3 398


36 178


18 151

    Northern Cape



2 811

    North West

4 247

    Western Cape


HBC Rapid Appraisal. 2003. National Department of Health

Table 6 shows that 85 242 children live in child-headed households receiving services from HBC projects.


Most commonly, when talking about the high rates of sexual abuse and the need to address this kind of violence; the most common refrain is that not all men abuse.  We know this.  However:  Not talking about a problem will not make it go away.  And talking about it is not an anti-male expression.  It is an effort to take a hard look at the main social dynamic that acts as a driver of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  This requires that we acknowledge male authority and the subsequent responsibility in consensual sexual relations, the high rates of rape and sexual violence and the extent of child sexual abuse statistics in South Africa.


In addition, voluntary counseling and testing should be a norm in a society where AIDS is reducing so many communities to health wards.


S.A. pre and post test. 2003




South Africa

12 782

23 140

Eastern Cape

2 512

3 939

Free State


1 504


2 664

3 542


1 623

 6 008


1 712

2 566

Northern Cape





1 480

North West

2 633

3 610

Additional considerations in gender discussions and reducing orphan-hood is as follows;

•          Women are already disproportionately represented amongst the poor.

•          Women have the added responsibility of child care.

•          Poverty increases vulnerability to sexual exploitation and sexual violence.

•          Grandmothers, aunts and sisters make up 80% of orphan guardians.


•          The national Home Based Care programme is based on the work of

unemployed women. NDoH 2003 RAPID REVIEW.

•          The national care-giver programme for orphans and vulnerable children is made

up primarily of women.

•          Girls are more likely to drop out of school to alleviate the household burden

of care.

•          Sexuality education is still a taboo in many homes and cultures.

•          Gender power imbalances add to the lack of safety for young girls.

•          Gender education should be included in all OVC work.

Socialisation of boys should encourage respect for all people and pro-active replacement of patriarchal rights with human rights.


Whilst OVC programmes are absolutely essential and needs to be scaled up to address the increase in orphan-hood, prevention strategies need to address the root causes of human relationships that lead to an increase on orphaned children.

News in South Africa

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