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Country analysis > Zimbabwe Last update: 2020-11-27  

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A Study of Child-Headed Households on Commercial Farms in Zimbabwe

9. Recommendations
These finding suggest that there are two main gaps in the support available for child headed households in commercial farm worker communities:

9.1. Physical/material support:

As outlined in Section 8, this includes food, clothing, shelter, school fees and non-food household items. There is serious doubt about whether any intervention to support orphaned children can undertake to meet all of these needs in a long-term, sustainable way. The "traditional" FOST approach has been to build capacity within communities, and the child headed household itself, to meet these needs whilst simultaneously advocating for the needs of orphaned children and their caregivers in farm worker communities to be included in mainstream interventions such as BEAM, National AIDS Programme etc. This survey suggests, however, that it is necessary to reconsider this "policy" for child headed households for two reasons.

Firstly, child headed households are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in farm communities and should be considered a special case when looking at material support. For one reason or another they do not have an extended family network to fall back on and are forced to meet these needs themselves. As a result the older children are deprived of the opportunity to go to school and they may be exposed to abuse and exploitation in order to obtain the basic needs for themselves and their younger siblings.

In addition, even where there are community initiatives to help child headed household these are breaking down under the severe economic hardships and food shortages being experienced by all elements of the community. The uncertainty and insecurity around the land reform process have exacerbated this. Asking community members to take responsibility for non-family members in these difficult circumstances is not easy.

It is recommended, therefore, that short-term interventions are implemented to provide material support for child headed households until such time as the community are able to offer this support. This material support should, however, be offered in conjunction with psycho-social support activities which involve the children themselves and key stakeholders in the community so that community safety nets can be built and sustained and the community can be empowered to access other more lasting sources of support.

9.2. Psycho-social support

This category of need incorporates a whole range on non-material support which enables child headed households to live a happy and well integrated life and have some sort of normal childhood. This includes having someone to offer love and affection, someone to turn to for help, advice, guidance, protection and support in times of crisis, giving the children hope for the future and enabling them to develop to their full potential and as normal and healthy young people. Material support alone will not facilitate this.

During the survey, FOST noted that in some of the child headed household surveyed there was a reasonable level of material support but that the children often lacked the "social energy" which enabled them to take opportunities that arose or to develop a positive approach to life. The fact that so few households grew their own food and that so few children had approached key members of the community directly for more systematic help is evidence that these children are severely traumatised by their experiences and situation and need help to regain their natural "social energy".

It was also noted that younger children rely on their older siblings for emotional support and social guidance, which can create an unbearable strain on the young people concerned. This may have been the reason why one of the heads of family ran away recently.

This is an area where the community as a whole can play a key role. The community may not have material resources but they are able to offer social and emotional support to orphaned children. This would involve regular supportive visits to the families, taking an interest in the children, their progress at school, monitoring their health, involving them in recreational and social events and offering care and "love". This can be facilitated by encouraging all sections of the farm worker community including community leaders such as farm health workers, teachers and pre-school leaders, the youth and parents to offer this supportive and enabling environment.

There is also a need to undertake preventative work, to create an environment where the community no longer find it acceptable to have children left unsupported and strategies are developed to prevent this happening.

It is therefore recommended that psycho-social support (PSS) interventions be initiated targeted at key stakeholders in the community. In addition, the orphaned children themselves should be targeted for training to build their life skills in aspects such as health, sanitation, HIV/AIDS as well as building up their resilience and enabling them to overcome bereavement, trauma and stigmatization.

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