One of the major challenges TASO faces is addressing the needs of the orphans—some of whom are also HIV positive—who have been left in the care of elder orphan siblings or adult relatives, particularly grandmothers and aunts. In the former case, the oldest sibling is often forced to drop out of school to care for the younger children and to attempt to earn money to feed and educate the younger children. In most cases, this proves to be an overwhelming if not impossible task without external support. Some of these children have been displaced from their family’s land by neighbors or relatives and have little foundation upon which to establish even a modest degree of subsistence. In one such household, one 18 year-old boy is caring for three younger siblings. In another household, six children have been placed in the households of six different neighbors and relatives after their land rights were usurped by a relative. There is some concern that the girls may be exploited and that some or all of the children are being treated as servants in the houses where they have been placed. In many cases, a relative steps to care for the children but finds the task of feeding and educating additional children overwhelming. In one such household, an HIV positive woman and her elderly mother are caring for 11 children orphaned by the death of her brother and both of his wives.
These scenarios are repeated time again in Uganda and other countries that have been ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. There are an estimated 1 million AIDS orphans in Uganda alone. TASO Mbale provides various forms of support to orphans including school fees, food support, and training in income generating activities; however, many children are left out. For example, due to cost constraints, TASO is only able to pay school fees for one child per household. Similarly, constraints on TASO’s food schemes make it difficult for some families to receive support beyond six months. The goal of this project is to ameliorate the dire situation these children find themselves in, a situation of hunger, sickness, despair, and hopelessness by empowering them to become self-sufficient through active participation in an income generating activity. The skills, confidence, and prosperity gained from dedicated, responsible participation in this program will fulfill the values and mission statements of TASO, an organization contributing to a process of restoring the quality of life of persons and communities infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
“The silence that surrounds children affected by HIV/AIDS and the inaction that results is morally reprehensible and unacceptable. If this situation is not addressed, and not addressed now with increased urgency, millions of children will continue to die, and tens of millions more will be further marginalized, stigmatized, malnourished, uneducated, and psychologically damaged” – Carol Bellamy, former Director, UNICEF
The vulnerable children serviced by TASO Mbale have been identified as such because of their lack of access to basic necessities, which include food, shelter, clothing, education, transportation, healthcare, and sometimes, psychosocial support. With the assistance of TASO Mbale counselors, 27 families with the most immediate needs and potential to successfully implement the income generating activity were identified to participate. These children have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS, are living with HIV, or are orphaned and HIV+; however, for the purpose of this memorandum, the children have been classified as “Orphaned by AIDS” or “HIV+.”