Liaster Musonza at Bromley clinic

Mavambo Orphan Care’s vision is to establish a healthy self-sustaining community for all children thus empowering children to develop their maximum potential to become socially adjusted, self-sustaining, healthy responsible citizens.

Mavambo Orphan Care invests in efforts to improve health of vulnerable children.

The first 24 months of life technically denotes the infancy period. It is a time when a child’s brain undergoes rapid development. During this phase, a child attains several milestones relating to motor, cognitive and behavioural development. This is a very sensitive period whereby any slight disruption to the process can negatively result into growth failure in

Liaster Musonza at Bromley clinic

terms of both motor and cognitive development. HIV has been linked to a wide range of developmental challenges such as cognitive development stagnation or delay, neurological problems, learning difficulties and speech and language problems.

Developmental delay is when a child does not progress as expected in achievement of specific milestones such as learning to sit, crawl, walk, play or talk. All babies and children develop milestones at their own pace but “every child should do certain tasks by a certain age”.

Mothers living with HIV face a complex set of child-rearing decisions, often within the context of many competing stressors. One difficult decision for HIV-infected mothers is whether to disclose their HIV status to their children.

Liaster Musonza was diagnosed with HIV in 2012. She remembers sitting at the clinic staring blankly at the wall as a wide array of questions and emotions rushed through her mind.

“I’m a survivor of dozens of hospitalizations all unrelated to my HIV status but this was different. My greatest pillar of strength during those health struggles was my family. But looking to my family for support was harder with HIV because of the burden of shame that I felt came with this diagnosis. This diagnosis didn’t affect me alone. I thought about how it would affect my family, and I questioned if I should tell them at all,” she said.

Disclosure is difficult for many people and Liaster was not immune to this fact. For a long time she struggled with her status as she felt ashamed and was afraid of being rejected.

“I know now that many people find it difficult to disclose their HIV status to their families. Our family members are often the people closest to us. They may be the ones whose opinions we tend to hold at as of higher value. A rejection from a friend or potential lover may hurt, but a rejection from our own blood family members can be extremely painful. I was afraid to tell my children about my status as I feared their reactions and how it would impact on their lives,” she added.

To ensure a child’s life, caregivers need to be taught how to take care of themselves and their children. This can be done through educating the caregiver and refining their care giving skills.

Refining care giving skills can contribute to better clinical outcomes in children’s development, health and engender a strong child-parent relationship.

Mothers need to seek prenatal and postnatal care and if they are HIV positive they need to adhere to a treatment regimen to ensure a healthy baby or child.

Mavambo Orphan Care (MOC) works closely with clinics where it refers caregivers and their children to be tested after undergoing a risk assessment.

MOC also conducts early childhood stimulation (ECS) sessions with pregnant mothers and those with children below the age of 5.

In 2017, Liaster was acquainted of the work that is being done by MOC. Around the same period she had given birth to her third child. She met a village health worker who encouraged her to join MOC’s Early Childhood Stimulation program. Her daughter then seemed to be experiencing delayed growth.

Children with delayed growth milestones and development need stimulation to enable them to “catch-up” with their peers. To enable this, MOC’s ECS program works with mother-baby pairs. The mothers go through sessions on topics such as health, stimulation, toy making (with local resources) as well as economic strengthening through MOC’s Internal Savings and Lending (ISAL) also known as ‘Mukando’.

The children seem to have a great improvement in their developmental milestones whilst mothers enjoyed the sessions and ISAL on the other hand helps to improve households’ access to income.

For Liaster, disclosure was made easier after her engagement with MOC. She was able to tell her children about her status and from then on adherence became easier. She is now able to lead a healthy life with the support of her children and loved ones.

During ECS sessions she met with other mothers who had similar situations and together they kept each other strong and each one became a pillar of strength for the next individual.

As a result Liaster’s daughter has had improved development which resulted from the information and lessons she learnt during the ECS sessions.  Thus MOC has made a positive impact on the life of the little girl at an early stage of life.

Liaster has since integrated some of the stimulating activities in her daily routines.