HIV/AIDS remains Zimbabwe’s biggest health challenge, with over 16% of the population infected in 2007. The disease has left more than one million children orphaned and many others the sole carers for dying parents.
Left to cope without the usual recourse of an extended family, children as young as nine-years-old are nursing their dying parents, many themselves facing the knowledge that they are also infected and will likely die alone.
Island Hospice, which provides most of its primary services to people in their own homes, recognises that the majority of these young carers are not equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to care for the terminally ill. Working with the children individually and in groups, Island Hospice supports them with the practical skills they need to provide care effectively, but also focuses on the children’s emotional needs as they face the isolation and stigma associated with their position, their bereavement and, in some cases, the knowledge of their own illness.
Island Hospice is providing a vital service to some of the world’s most vulnerable children and making a huge difference to their lives and the lives of those they care for.
With the Stars funding, the hospice has increased the number of early referrals of children due to the higher availability of medication at the clinics and a better quality of service.
The hospice has encouraged and mobilised greater numbers of children to be tested for HIV/AIDs and facilitated access to anti-retrovirals where possible. The hospice has also provided psychosocial and bereavement counselling to children and their families, which staff have noted has improved and encouraged more open communication between the children and their families and guardians.
On a wider scale, Island Hospice has benefitted from networking opportunities with other health providing organisations, local hospitals and municipal clinics.
The Impact Award has allowed Island Hospice to reach out directly to many more marginalised children by expanding its work into three new paediatric clinics, offering counselling to over 400 new children. Stars also supported Island Hospice in securing a permanent place on GlobalGiving, which provides an online platform for fundraising from individual donors.
Photos: Andy Aitchison