AIDS Africa: Relevant Standard and Good Practice

SOS Social Centre Mbabane, Swaziland Family Carer Programme

Programme Description

The SOS/Salvation Army Family Carer Programme has been operating since November 2001 and reaches orphaned and vulnerable children and their families living in two districts (Msunduza and Sidwashini) of the greater Mbabane area, through community volunteers: “Family Carers” who conduct home visits. Programme beneficiaries are able to access a range of services provided by SOS including material support (food, school uniforms and material), educational support (school fees, basic literacy classes for school drop-outs) and medical support. Income generating activities include a sewing and a garden project because the ultimate goal of the programme is the self reliance of the families. The programme is delivered with support from the Salvation Army Community Care Team (SACCT), which assists by delivering home-based care to ill adults.

The programme provides material and social support to 150 families which are either child-headed or grandparent-headed households or a household with a chronically ill single parent, at an average cost of US$20 per month/child beneficiary.

By working with community members and other stakeholders, the programme is expanding its operations into more communities within the SOS Children’s Village catchment area.

Relevant standard and good practice

Our programmes are targeted towards the most vulnerable children, their families & communities

Community-based research provides a basis to develop an orphan register.


The development of an orphan register provides a basis for delivering services to the most vulnerable children. Community-based research involves potential beneficiaries with problem identification, and encourages the community to take ownership of the problem.


In September 2003, the programme conducted a baseline study of the problems of orphaned and vulnerable children in ten districts of Mbabane and Nhlangano (Swaziland’s two major cities), in order to support the expansion of the programme. The research was community-based and took a participatory approach to researching the needs of potential beneficiaries by involving community members through household questionnaires, community meetings, interviews with orphans and their caregivers, and focus group discussions.

The research sought to determine the communities’ definition of an orphan, identify the prevalence of orphaned children and child-headed households in the communities, their material and psycho-social needs, and the issues associated with caring for them. Once the final report was produced, the results of the research were shared with community members and interested stakeholders in community meetings, which laid the foundation to rally their support.

Besides establishing the groundwork to develop relevant programming for the right beneficiaries, the research has familiarised the communities with SOS so that when the programme begins to deliver services, people will already know the organisation.

The study identified 2,700 orphans, which has formed the basis to create an “orphan register” in each community that can be used to expand programme operations and directly target the orphans. The orphan register was developed through a multi-step process: Firstly, the programme sought the assistance of “Rural Health Motivators” to compile a list in their designated communities. Rural Health Motivators are community members trained by the government to teach basic health and hygiene in their communities, some of whom participated in focus groups for the research as well. Once these lists were compiled they were reviewed by community leaders and submitted to SOS for cross-checking, which entails conducting site visits and checking appropriate documentation such as birth and death certificates.

The result is to have a complete list, containing important information on the children such as their name, location, family status, name of their school and grade. By engaging communities in the process of identifying and registering orphans, they are encouraged to take greater responsibility for the children.

The research has also led to the formation of the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Steering Committee, composed of other NGOs, members of parliament and stakeholders who have an interest in collaborating on this work. Forming the committee has been an avenue for SOS Swaziland (and the existing Family Carer Programme) to raise its profile as a leader in the area of care and support for orphans and vulnerable children in the NGO community, and to identify potential partners for cooperation.

As a result of these activities, the Government of Swaziland has taken an active interest in the programme’s work. Government representatives attended the meetings, sharing the results of the research, and the Prime Minister’s office has sought advice from the programme on how to establish an orphan register. The Department of Education has committed to sponsoring a proportion of the children identified by the register to attend school for free, and the members of parliament sitting on the OVC Steering Committee are active in advocating for the government to provide social grants for the care of orphans.

Lessons learnt

Although it is important to engage community members in identifying potential beneficiaries, it is equally important to crosscheck results in order to ensure that people are not taking advantage of the process and using it to assist only relatives and friends.

Key people

Maphangisa Dlamini, the Programme Coordinator, has been expressly tasked with expanding the programme and is responsible for involving community members and other stakeholders in programme development. Maphangisa, who is a nurse by profession, entered the field in order to specialize in community health. When he joined Red Cross he became increasingly involved in HIV/AIDS issues, where he saw people dying hopelessly. This made him want to focus more on children, and that is what led him to join SOS. Maphangisa feels that when you address children’s needs, there is the opportunity for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, rather than just its mitigation.

He believes the programme uses a good approach by building families’ capacity to address the problem. “You can’t ignore the influence it has on the family, which is the primary safety net when addressing any problem”, he observes. He also believes that the programme should mobilise the community to address its own problems “We shouldn’t be dancing alone; we should involve the community, identifying the problem and sharing it with us.”

Read more about SOS Children's work in Swaziland