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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Kibaha grandparents all out to help vulnerable children

18th November 2011

Kibaha district in Coast Region has hatched a scheme that empowers poverty stricken parents or guardians to give better care to children living with HIV/Aids, orphans and vulnerable children through paltry contributions. Our Staff Writer gives an account of the system mooted by a non-governmental organization-Kifaru Community Development in Tanzania (KIFARU)…

Around 50 old men and women recently thronged Kwala Primary School in Kibaha District, Coast Region desperately wanting to be tested their HIV/Aids status. It was part of celebrations to mark the International Day of the Aged which took place at regional level in Coast region at Kwala- one of the most impoverished villages in the region.

Mohamed Mitanga (70) of Kwala village in Kibaha, Coast Region was particularly enthusiastic for the HIV/Aids testing. He even wrangled with his fellow age-mate over the honour to be in the first position of the line-up, so that he could be tested first before anyone.

Mitanga was among around 100 elderly people given first priority to be tested their HIV and Aids status during this year’s 'Year of the Aged’ celebrations in Coast region

“This is the fourth time I have come for the testing. I have tested negative in all three tests. I always do that when there is an opportunity because myself and my wife live a distance apart. One of us might be unfaithful and therefore we have to taste periodically,” he says adding that his wife was also testing.

He says he has influenced people of his age in the village and members of his family to do the same.

At the celebrations, groups of old men and women were selling various locally made items. In one group Habiba Amli (67) is surrounded by customers eagerly waiting for their turn to buy. Habiba along with other members of the group sell home-made soap for 1,200/- a piece.

Another woman in the group is Tausi Rashidi Malipula who says she is glad that now she is able buy clothes and meat which she could not be able acquire before the introduction of their small business group.

Mwarabu Tengeni (70) is also undertaking a small business of selling locally made mats from wild grass. She makes a joke with officials of the meeting by telling them,

'Look how healthy our old women in this village are. You can propose for marriage with of them."

Another group of the elderly women was that which was selling improved charcoal stoves. A man who has just retired from civil service has taught them, according to members of the group.

The vibrant nature of the elderly people in the village is a result of efforts by the Kifaru Community Development in Tanzania (KICODET) in supporting them. The Kibaha based non-governmental organization (NGO)'s vision is to have well-organized society with community based stable community which cares and supports people living with HIV/Aids (PLHAs) orphans and vulnerable children.

Most of older people in Tanzania are characterized as poverty stricken with low incomes, poor health, limited access to health care facilities. They are often marginalized with lack of voice and representation. Besides they have to provide support for orphaned and vulnerable grandchildren.

KICODET is supported by Fit for Future Programme (DSW)- a German Foundation for World Population which is an international NGO aimed at contributing for efforts to alleviate poverty and spread of HIV/Aids.

KICODEC has introduced Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) system. These are community based groups of around thirty people who keep their shares in the form of money into a small fund container from which affiliates can borrow. It is a non-registered business entity however.

According to the KICODET Executive Director Dr Rose Mkonyi, there are altogether 146 Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) groups in Kibaha District Council and Kibaha Town Council out of which 26 are groups formed specifically for children. There are 732 children in the groups. Parents are contributing a weekly compulsory token of 500/- as shares voluntary contribution of any amount a week.

Dr Mkonyi says the compulsory contribution are shares of the children in the group and one has to contribute not more than five shares (2,500/-) a child.

She says parents are able to loan from the children’s compulsory contributions and not from the shares.

“The fund is beefed-up when parents or care givers return the loans. The interest for any loan which is usually ten percent is invested in the account of the child he or she takes care of,” she says.

The compulsory contribution and its interests is only used for medical treatment and educational purposes like paying school fees for the children. Children’s contribution has accumulated to 5m/-.

SILC groups are popular among People Living with HIV and Aids (PLHIV) and Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC).

Altogether the Kibaha District which comprises of District Council and Kibaha Urban District has accumulated 31m/- SILC fund. Some SILC 30 groups have opened up bank accounts. She says that now families under SILC are able to send their children to school and buy school uniforms are other requirements.

In what Dr Mkonyi sees as a great stride in development, the non-governmental organization has acquired a tractor which is being used by members of SILC. She said for example that this years a total of 136 acres will be cultivated by the tractor.

The elderly have all reasons to thank KICODET. They said a total of 80 groups of old men and women were formed in six wards in Kibaha district council. The groups have been mobilized to undertake small projects like making laundry soaps, weaving, decorations, making local mats.

Through their groups they were trained on best agricultural practices and that they had managed to put 67.5 acres of land under cultivation using a tractor owned by KICODET. They were required to contribute 10,000/- for the tractor to till one acre compared to around 40,000 which is being charged for one acre cultivation by private people.

“KICODET is our saviour. It has made us old people to have bumper crop and we are sure of our lives. Before, we even did not know where the next meal would come from, said Tausi Rashidi Malipula, a 65-year old woman at Kwala village.

The Coast Regional Community Welfare Officer, Lydia Mafole says the elderly in Kibaha owes much to the work by KICODET in helping the aged and the community at large.

“Because of KICODET, food in many households of the aged has increased. Our grandchildren many of whom are orphaned have been able to go to school because the old men and women have money to pay for them. The income of these households has increased by doing some small businesses with entrepreneurship ideas from KICODET. These old people have also beneficiated from the KICODET’s tractor in their agricultural activities,” the regional community welfare officer lauded.

She has asked district authorities in the region to include in their district annual budgets funds to cater for services for the elderly so as to make the 2003 national policy of the older people meaningful.

“ I also advice them to conduct a census of the old people in their jurisdictions and provide them with identity cards so that they could help them whenever they go for social services including medical help,” she notes.

A Kibaha senior citizen and known opinion leader, Ramadhani Sultani Chanzi has asked the government to see to it that prices of essential goods did not skyrocket.

“ When prices are up, it is the old people who suffer most because elderly people are the ones taking care of children whose parents have long died of HIV/Aids,” he said adding, “ sugar- which is fancied by the elderly people is now unaffordable to old people because of its high price. When we old people buy sugar we do it for ourselves and for our grand children who most of their parents have died of AIDS.”

KICODET has every reason to be proud in contributing to the better live of the elderly in the region for its concerted work in making their lives even more enjoyable and sustainable.Kifaru Community Development in Tanzania (KICODET) was established in 2002 as a community based organization to stimulate community response to HIV and AIDS and address the needs of orphans and most vulnerable groups.

Kibaha is one of the six districts in the Coast region has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 7.3 percent in the region according to Tanzania Household Index Survey. Grand parents, especially grand mothers are taking care of grand children who have lost their beloved parents due to HIV and Aids.

Factors that contribute to high susceptibility include interactions to the busy Dar es Salaam-upcountry highway, high poverty and low education of food production, food preservation and income generating activity.

Surely the programme has afforded grandparents in Kibaha community to be contributors towards government in supporting vulnerable children, children living with HIV and Aids and orphans.

On its part the government has offered land to grandmothers to display their goods and a plotfor starting a child Day care centre in Mafafu Mtaa in the district and plots have been offered by Forest department for beekeeping at Visiga, Kongowe, Mtakuja and Soga. According to Dr Mkonyi some 100 beehives have been installed and bee colonies have started building up.

According to Kibaha District Medical Officers office HIV prevalence has dropped from 7.3 some years ago to 6.5.

“We have a share in the success,” Dr Mkonyi boasts.

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