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Providing essential services to support resilience in COVID-19 restrictions

*Precious’s journey with Zvandiri began in 2019 when she was enrolled into the program under Hurungwe district. Her mother passed away when she was 5 years old, she had to leave her childhood home to stay with designated caregivers, and then was moved again to stay with her aunt. Precious was struggling with her new environment and relations with her aunt were very difficult. She was identified as needing support by the Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter (CATS who reported her case to the Zvandiri district team, as there were serious concerns about her health. The Zvandiri program’s over-arching goal is to improve HIV treatment and care outcomes among children, adolescents and young people living with HIV (CAYPLHIV) like Precious. The team screened her for common mental health conditions and offered counselling where it came to light Precious had a difficult past dealing with an absent father and the challenges with accepting her HIV status.

She received pyscho-social support from the district team who later referred her to the primary counsellor for additional support. The team also observed that Precious was not attending school, with her aunt citing financial difficulties making little money as a vendor and supporting four biological children in the midst of COVID 19 lockdown. The district engaged the Department of Social Development and CAMFED in November 2019 to support the family. When lockdown commenced in March 2021, Precious could not be enrolled in school, as the COVID 19 restrictions meant that case management visits couldn’t happen and the district selection committee could not convene and make final arrangements for her to be enrolled in school. Without home visits partners relied on the assessments made by Zvandiri through their enhanced case follow up visits to inform case management. The district team remained resilient and continued with the support through virtual follow ups to ensure that Precious would be enrolled into school. Several virtual case management meetings were held with the DAC, District Education Officer and CAMFED.

The case for Precious demonstrates that the support for essential services for CAYPLHIV required resilience in the face of the COVID 19 pandemic and multiple challenges not only related to HIV but psychosocial and economic issues had to be tackled. It is through the collaborative efforts of Zvandiri and other essential services and support providers within districts that progress in alleviating the challenges of orphaned children living with HIV has been possible and they have seen improved health outcomes and well-being.

Currently, Precious is accessing HIV related treatment, care and support services and she is coping well and she was shortlisted for educational assistance by CAMFED in January 2021 and has begun attending class as a form 3 student at Champions Gwande School

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