South Africa National Conference On Orphans, Vulnerable Children And Youth (OVCY)

Monday, May 27, 2013
Opening Remarks By The Chargé D’affaires, Virginia Palmer


27 MAY 2013

Sanibona, Dumelang, Goeie Dag, Thobela, Good Day:

Honorable Program Director
Honorable Minister of Social Development, Ms. Bathabile Dlamini 
Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi
Honorable Minister of Women, Children and People Living with Disabilities, Ms. Lulu Xingwana
Honorable Minister of Basic Education, Ms. Angie Motshekga
Honorable Minister of Constitutional Development and Justice, Mr. Jeff Radebe
Honorable Ministers and Deputy Ministers present here today
Honorable Premier and MECs present here today
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen.  All protocols observed.

I would like to thank the Honorable Minister Bathabile Dlamini for the opportunity to participate in this important conference and to highlight how essential it is for children and youth who are affected by HIV and AIDS to continue being a priority in our efforts to mitigate the effects of HIV and AIDS. The U.S. Government and the American people, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (or PEPFAR), are proud to be in partnership with the Department of Social Development in supporting this groundbreaking conference. We believe in the power of partnership and this conference has been a true partnership.

No generation is spared the catastrophic consequences of the AIDS pandemic. From newborn babies of HIV-positive mothers to elderly caregivers, the disease does not discriminate. One of the most tragic consequences is the toll on our children.

In 2012 alone, more than three million children in South Africa under the age of 18 years had lost one or both parents to AIDS. Children in affected families face the added burdens of responsibilities far beyond their capabilities – nursing a sick or dying parent, raising younger siblings, running the household or family farm, replacing a breadwinner, or struggling for survival on city streets. They must do all of this while trying to deal with the natural feelings of grief and abandonment. 

Despite many gains in the fight against AIDS, children still lag far behind adults in access to important medical and support services, including HIV prevention, care, and treatment services.

By partnering with the South African government, local communities, and other organizations, PEPFAR is committed to improving the lives of children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS – a critical step in the path to achieving an AIDS-free generation. The programs support through USAID and other government agencies are designed to address the complex and interconnected needs of children affected by HIV and AIDS. Essential services to children affected by HIV and AIDS include psycho-social support, educational support, HIV prevention activities, income-generation activities, and clinical care. This multi-sector approach must also include support for the elderly persons who shoulder the burden of raising their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Together we must ensure that no child has to grow-up with HIV and that children and youth and their families are not made vulnerable by this disease.

To do that, we need to step-up our early intervention efforts for children under five years old – a time of critical development for young children.  Early Child Development is essential.  We also need to work with families to help them become more economically stable so they can access essential services and better provide for their children.

By thinking in the long-term and investing in efforts to strengthen systems of care and support, including social services, we can improve the lives of children in South Africa.

Since 2007, PEPFAR has invested approximately $269 million (ZAR 2.4 billion) in programs supporting orphans and vulnerable children in all nine provinces of South Africa.

In 2012 alone, PEPFAR invested a total of $41 million (ZAR 369 million) to specifically address the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa. By partnering with the South African Government, local and international organizations like Center for Positive Care, Future Families, the National Association of Childcare Workers (NACCW), World Vision South Africa, Childline South Africa and Wozo’bona, we’ve been able to reach almost 700,000 children in 2012 alone. This is a remarkable achievement and we thank the South African Government for leading the way. 

Our results reflect an individual investment in the future of thousands of young South Africans like Precious, who lost her mother to AIDS when she was 14 years old. Precious, now 19, lives with her 71 year old Gogo (pronounced go-go), her three younger siblings and her five young cousins.  Three of her five young cousins are on ARV treatment.  Between Precious and her grandmother, they have struggled to maintain the household.

But thanks to the support of National Association of Childcare Workers, DSD and USAID, Precious is now employed in a nearby Isibind I program as a clerk.  Her income allows her to assist her grandmother financially with their household. NACCW has also helped her grandmother access child support grants for her younger cousins.  Now, with steady forms of income and more support, the family looks forward to a healthier, more stable future.

We need more success stories of vulnerable children making the successful transition to adulthood like Precious. And we all recognize that our work is far from over.

The United States and South African Governments recently signed a Partnership Framework Implementation Plan (the PFIP)that provides a roadmap for the transition of the PEPFAR program from an emergency initiative to a sustainable program led by the South African Government.

This joint plan provides a clear path for integrating the PEPFAR care and treatment programs into the South African primary healthcare system in order to preserve quality of care, maximize efficiency of the national response, and strengthen the overall human and institutional capacity of the South African health system. But going beyond treatment and care, the PFIP is a plan that highlights the importance of protecting the most vulnerable population affected by HIV – children. Over the next five years, PEPFAR will continue to prioritize support for orphans and vulnerable children.

We will continue to support the objectives of the Department of Social Development by working together to improve the quality of OVC services by strengthening systems and the oversight framework for coordination, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of children’s services.

That is why we have partnered with DSD and NACCW in the rollout of the Isibindi model that young Precious is a part of. The goal of Isibindi is to create “Circles of Care” around children affected by AIDS by deploying trained community-based child and youth care workers (CYCWs) in communities. These workers meet the children and their families’ right where they live and play, in their homes and communities. They build supportive relationships with the families and ensure children and adults have access to the services they need, including HIV testing, treatment, and social services such as child grants. Through this model, PEPFAR supports over 50 sites in 9 provinces providing direct services to over 100,000 children and training more than 1000 Child and Youth Care Workers.

This conference is an opportunity to document activities that have been successful and is designed to promote an exchange of ideas and information, leverage technical and financial resources, and encourage partnerships, collaboration, and coordination among programs supporting Orphan Vulnerable Children and Youth (OVCY).

I would like to especially recognize the children and youth representatives who are here today. Thank you for the valuable input you provide in a dialogue that affects programs across the country.  Your input is essential.

HIV/AIDS is more than a health crisis. All sectors of society –education, agriculture, business, and others –are dramatically affected by the pandemic; no single intervention can adequately address the dynamic and destructive forces unleashed on a household affected by HIV and AIDS. The problems of children and families are complex and interlinked. All too often an ill caregiver receives home-based care while opportunities to provide prevention messages and psychosocial and economic support to other household members are missed. Fortunately, more and more programs are identifying opportunities to integrate services for children affected by HIV/AIDS and their families.  We all need to take part in this integration. It is commendable to see stakeholders from across the different sectors (public, private, civil society) participating in this conference.  Your presence demonstrates what a serious challenge we face, as well as, your serious commitment to addressing it.

On behalf of the U.S. government, again, I thank you for the important work you are doing, I wish you a fruitful dialogue for the rest of the week and look forward to seeing the outcomes.   I congratulate you all, for the accomplishments of this wonderful National conference focused on changing the lives of orphans vulnerable children and youth.

Thank you.

Issuing Country