SIRDEP’s Social Development Component Seeks to Expand its Orphan and Vulnerable Children Support Program

History

In 2000, while SIRDEP was working with farmers in rural areas under the Natural Resource Management and Agricultural & Economic Development component, the organization recognized that there were many farmers with very large households.  The increased number in household occupancy was a result of orphans being adopted by relatives of deceased parents.  This acted as a burden to many of the farmers.  SIRDEP, therefore, decided to reduce the burden of the farmers by supporting some of the orphans.

In 2005, SIRDEP established the Social Development Component to address socially-related development issues at the community level.

Since its inception, the Social Development component has been assisting orphans and vulnerable children in the North West Region.  The component initiated a pilot phase in Momo and Donga Mantung Divisions with great success especially surrounding the educational performance (see table below for orphan statistics).  

 Although the pilot project was successful in terms of positively impacting beneficiaries, there remains tremendous challenges and opportunities to increase the breadth and scope of SIRDEP’s impact.  SIRDEP seeks to increase its ability to positively impact the status of orphans in the North West Region.  

Challenges Facing Orphans

Orphans and vulnerable children in the North West Region of Cameroon have a very low status in the community.  This low status is caused by poor educational background, low income levels of orphans and guardians, limited vocational skills, stigmatization, social discrimination and poor implementation of government policies.

Orphans often miss out on school enrolment, have their schooling interrupted or perform poorly in school as a result of their situation. Expenses related to basic school needs present major barriers, since many guardians cannot afford these costs. Extended families sometimes see formal education as a major factor in deciding not to take an additional child.Orphans also leave school to attend to sick family members, work or to look after their young siblings. Even before the death of a parent, children sometimes miss out on educational opportunities.

Out of school, orphans miss out on valuable life-skills and practical knowledge that would have been passed on to them by their parents. Without this knowledge and a basic school education, children face social, economic and health problems as they grow up. The low income level of the guardians also makes it difficult for the orphans to go for vocational training.

Children grieving for dying or dead parents are often stigmatised and discriminated upon. The distress and social isolation experienced by these children, both before and after the death of their parent(s), is strongly exacerbated by rejection that often surrounds people affected by HIV and AIDS. Often children who have lost their parents to AIDS are assumed to be HIV positive themselves, adding to the likelihood that they will face discrimination and damage their future prospects. Once a parent dies, some children are denied their inheritance and property rights. In this situation, children do not have access to healthcare.

The low status of the orphans leads to undesirable effects in communities such as prostitution, teenage pregnancies, school dropout, early and forced marriages, increase street children, high level of unemployment for orphans, increased criminal activities, malnutrition, and high mortality rate amongst orphans.

Final Thoughts

Clearly the challenges surrounding orphans and vulnerable children are great.  We are confident that the pilot project referenced above produced tangible results as well as demonstrated a great potential for expansion.  The time has come to expand on this project to ensure that a greater number of orphans and vulnerable children are offered equal opportunities to succeed and contribute productively to the development of Cameroon.    

The Social Development component has been actively engaging potential funders, partners, and beneficiaries in developing an expanded orphan and vulnerable children program.    If you have an interest in any aspect of this project, please do not hesitate to contact:

Component Head Ms. Che Gwendoline Sirri at sirrigwend@yahoo.fr

Note: Please look for future articles in our ‘Voices from the Field’ series which will highlight specific impacts SIRDEP has realized through it orphans and vulnerable children program.

Table of orphans supported by SIRDEP from 2007-2010

Year Number of orphans identified Number of orphans supported in Momo Division Number of orphans supported in Donga Mantung Division Total number of orphans supported with basic educational needs Number of orphans on vocational training
2007 100 25 25 50 0
2008 115 25 25 50 0
2009 140 54 29 83 0
2010 220 87 38 125 2
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About SIRDEP
The Society for Initiatives in Rural Development and Environmental Protection (SIRDEP) is non-governmental, not-for-profit making organization in Cameroon head quartered in Bamenda. SIRDEP has a multi-disciplinary team of experienced agronomists, agro-economists, livestock technicians, rural engineers, and natural resource management experts who work together to foster positive, sustainable development. SIRDEP was founded in 1992 and is one of the oldest indigenous NGOs in the North West Region of Cameroon.

One Response to SIRDEP’s Social Development Component Seeks to Expand its Orphan and Vulnerable Children Support Program

  1. Ndifor patience says:

    The efforts of SIRDEP is this social area is good. it should be promoted.

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