Friends of Orphans (FRO)

Pader, Northern Uganda

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HIV/AIDS program

Friends of Orphans (FRO) addresses gender violence and harmful cultural practice in relation to the spread of HIV/AIDS. FRO works with a range of stakeholders to ensure all voices are represented. We provide HIV/AIDS home-based care, support and prevention amongst the community of Pader district.

We provide care to women who are dying of AIDS so that their last weeks, days, hours are free from pain, humiliation and indignity. Support people living with HIV/AIDS to educate themselves and share information with the broader community on prevention, treatment, care and the elimination of stigma.

"The condition of people living and dying due to war and HIV/AIDS in northern Uganda is so desperate that even the most basic help will bring solace and hope.” Anywar Ricky Richard

What it is like to be a vulnerable child or orphan in our community?
For many children in our community, being a vulnerable child and orphan are one and the same. In our community, all children are vulnerable and the majority are orphans. Vulnerable children in our community are either former child soldiers, former abductees, former sex slaves and their children, or were born and are growing up in an IDP camp. Many of these children were abandoned or their mothers were killed, and they do not know their clans, their family names or their identities. They are raised in our community by surrogate families or are placed outside the district. Vulnerable children in our community, whether 16 year old former child soldiers, or four year old children, know daily hunger. The older children who were abducted and were child soldiers suffer from being traumatized by their ordeals of having had to kill and mutilate or witness the most horrible violence. Most have witnessed the loss of family members and friends and some were forced to participate in these killings. Many of our children suffer; shame, guilt, and denial; many have diseases or are disabled from their time in the bush; many girls are dealing with sexual abuse or are raising their own children. The worst part of all are the children who reach secondary school age, but can not find resources to advance them to secondary or vocational training school. In addition, many youth suffer depression and hopelessness because their lives are going nowhere and they are dealing only with daily survival. For orphans, it is worse since they miss their parents and only few live in households where there is enough food and shelter for everyone.
Children who are HIV positive are the most vulnerable since there is no treatment available and very little diagnostic services, these children are the most vulnerable to dying from opportunistic disease. The youngest children are also the most vulnerable since they are the most likely to die from diarrhea, malaria and fungal diseases. Girls are the most vulnerable to STDs from sexual abuse. Older children are also highly vulnerable if they were child soldiers as they are suffering from the trauma of their ordeals, and little counseling is available. They also need cleansing rituals in order to reconcile what they participated in, with their families or other victims; some receive these rituals and some do not. These children endure much suffering and are vulnerable to depression and other mental health problems.
An overview of HIV/AIDS in Pader district:

Due to the war, tens of thousands of children have been abducted as child soldiers, including girls who become sex slaves and are forced to marry commanders. Many girls are also subject to sexual abuse as night commuters and also provide sexual favors for food and survival. Therefore, many girls become infected with HIV, as do some of the boys.

Many infants and children die in our communities and surrounding areas because most water is non-potable and carries disease. A large number of children often die because of these opportunistic and environmental diseases. However, we believe a certain number of these children are infected with HIV and almost all are affected with HIV/AIDS. It is stated that Uganda has a 6% national HIV infection rate. It is also known that in some districts on the border, such as with Kenya, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, the HIV infection rates are much higher. World Vision’s report says the HIV/AIDS rate in Northern Uganda is twice the national average.

What makes the condition of children even more vulnerable in our area is that there are no adequate health services, there is no HIV/AIDS testing, no HIV/AIDS counseling and no treatment available for vulnerable children and caregivers. Given the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in northern Uganda, and from the war, and the almost total lack of health services or prevention services, or family planning or reproductive health services, the children we serve are highly vulnerable as it relates to HIV/AIDS. many women have suffered rape, sexual abuse and have provided sexual favors for survival. Many have lost husbands to HIV/AIDS, we do not know the figures on how many are HIV positive but we feel the figure is high. To this we would add that most children in our area suffer from different degrees of malnutrition, and our water systems are polluted with toilet overflows and groundwater/borehole seepage, making our children even more vulnerable. Many children in our community are orphans, their parents having been killed in the war, or died from disease including AIDS related syndromes.

The greatest needs of our children:
  1. Education, skills and vocational training
  2. Counseling and mentorship
  3. For orphans, living with a stable surrogate family
  4. Restoring cultural, social and life skills
  5. Addressing health needs
  6. For child mothers and former girl soldiers, reproductive health and family planning services
  7. HIV/AIDS education, testing, support and treatment
The greatest needs of their caregivers:
  1. Sufficient household income
  2. Training in entrepreneurship and vocational skills
  3. Technical Assistance to sustain small businesses and income generating activities
  4. Combating depression from lack of income and normal activities
  5. Family planning and reproductive health services
  6. HIV/AIDS education, testing, support and treatment
  7. Gender equality 
What is community engagement?

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance has a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for adults and children living with and affected by HIV. Read more>>