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Kenya Has Over 2.4 million Orphans

May 3rd 2011 – The World Orphans Day is an international event marked on 7th May every year.

The Day was first commemorated in New York on the 7th day 2002 with the aim of raising awareness and advocating for the needs of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC).

In Kenya the day was first commemorated in the year 2006.

This was out of a growing concern to the crisis of millions of children who have been Orphaned or made Vulnerable by HIV/AIDS among other factors.

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Kenya Has Over 2.4 million Orphans

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The intentions behind the day is to appeal  for global solution to the plight of orphans and vulnerable children by focusing  public and media attention on social and economic exclusion of the OVC ; lobbying  governments  ,development partners  and  other  stakeholders  to  take urgent measures to reintegrate the orphans and vulnerable children into the society.

In Kenya, the situation of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) is an issue of National concern.

Currently it is estimated that there are over 2.4 million Orphans in the country, 47 percent are orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS and many more remain vulnerable due to several other factors.

Children affected by HIV/AIDS are vulnerable long before their parents die. Girls, in particular, assume caring responsibilities for their ailing parents besides parenting for their siblings.

With the weakening extended family systems in our society most children find themselves without proper social support with the incapacitation and death of their parents.

This would deny the OVC a chance to access their basic needs such as proper health care, education shelter and nutrition. Orphans suffer stigma, stress and trauma in addition to the loss of parental love, care and protection and more often they are disinherited.

HIV/Aids scourge compounded with high poverty levels and the recent post election violence have aggravated the situation of OVC in Kenya.

The above situation exposes the orphans and vulnerable children to different forms of abuse and exploitation; physical abuse, defilement, sexual exploitation, child labour, and early marriages while more flock to streets to fend for themselves.

This situation diminishes their capacity to participate in matters affecting their life.  Indeed cases of child abuse have become a common feature in our society with only a few of these, being reported to the relevant authorities.

The Government and other stakeholders are coming up with a number of interventions in an effort to address the situation of OVC in the country.

However, many remain unreached and this is the reason for further appeal, for more concerted efforts from all and sundry to address the plight of Orphans and Vulnerable children.

The Government recognizes that the institution of the family as the best for the proper growth and socialization of children hence emphasizes on interventions for OVC   at the household level.

Through the National Plan of Action for OVC the government has identified the following Priority Strategic Areas as key for OVC interventions:

i.    Through the National Plan of Action for OVC, the government has identified the following  strategic and priority  areas as key area for OVC interventions: Strengthen the capacity of families to protect and care for OVC

ii.    Mobilize and support community based responses

iii.    Ensure access for OVC to essential services including but not limited to education, health care, birth registration, psychosocial support and legal protection

iv.    Ensure improved policy and legislation are put in place to protect the most vulnerable children

v.    Create a supportive environment for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS

vi.    Strengthen and support national coordination and institutional structures

vii.    Strengthen national capacity to monitor and evaluate programme effectiveness and quality

The Government advises all stakeholders to ensure that the quality of services given to OVC dignifies and give them hope for a bright future. In this regard, the National Plan of Action for OVC spells a minimum package for OVC support that is age oriented.

This is in recognition that OVC are not a homogenous population but like other children, their needs change with their physical, emotional and mental growth.

Through the Area Advisory Council, the government has a responsibility to ensure that the plight of orphans is not exploited by unscrupulous persons/ institutions that purport to be providing support to OVC but end up enriching themselves or abusing the orphans.

The community also has a primary role in safeguarding the rights of orphans in their midst.

The Government through Department of Children Services with support from Development Partners is implementing a Cash Transfer Programme for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC) to extremely poor households taking care of OVC.

This is a social protection intervention which provides regular and predictable cash transfers to these extremely poor families in order to encourage fostering and retention of OVC within their families and promote their human capital development.

The programme is being implemented in some locations of 47 old administrative districts and is currently covering 45,815 households. The existing Area Advisory Councils (AACS) have been further strengthened to take up the responsibilities of this programme at the districts levels.

The future scale-up of this programme would be dependent on the availability of more funds from both the government and development partners.

An OVC Secretariat has been established at the Department of Children’s Services Headquarters to enhance coordination of OVC initiatives in the country.  A multi-sectoral National Steering Committee on OVC was established in 2004 to provide policy guidance on OVC interventions.

The Government has developed Child Adoption Regulations to streamline the adoption procedures and protect the rights of adopted children. Likewise, Charitable Children Institutions Regulations (CCI) have a gazzeted legal framework which guides the establishment and management of these institutions that cater for orphans and other vulnerable children.

There are other government ministries that have services that target all children including the OVC such as in health and education. However there is need for these service/ programmes to take care of the vulnerability and the special needs of the orphans.

In this regard a heightened intervention at the school level is highly recommended to ensure increased school enrolment, attendance and retention for the OVC.

The government recognizes and appreciates efforts made by development partners, non-governmental organizations, and civil society organizations; community based organizations and faith based organizations in providing support to OVC in the country.

It is important that all stakeholders operate within the existing government legislation and guidelines to ensure that all programmes cater for the best interests of the child.

This also calls for enhanced collaboration and networking among all stakeholders for meaningful impact and proper utilization of the available resources.

As we commemorate the World Orphans’ Day this year, let us all be aware that as a Nation, Communities, Families and Individuals, we have a divine responsibility to provide appropriate care and protection to all the Orphans and Vulnerable Children.

Let us all preach the message of Hope to the orphans as embedded in the theme of this year, “A Family and Hope for Every Orphan.”

This year’s National celebration will be held on Thursday 7th, May 2009 at Nyayo Gardens, Nakuru Town. All Kenyans are once again asked to observe the day by extending a hand of Hope to the orphans and vulnerable within their communities and families.

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