OSCAR Project - Being a Voice to the Marginalized Children
To date, Sub-Saharan Africa has over 53 million orphaned children, 30% of whom are orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Existing literature suggests that orphaned children are at a high risk of economic and sexual exploitation, drug and substance abuse, depression, stress, malnutrition and tuberculosis.
Orphaned and Separated Children Assessment Related (OSCAR) to their Health and Well Being Project, popularly known as the OSCAR Project is a 5 year longitudinal study based at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital grounds.
This project started in January this year and had its clinic officially opened on 1st July, 2010 by the Hospital Director Prof. H.N.K arap Mengech. It intends to look into how the care environment in which orphans and street children live in and how it consequently affects their health, physically and mentally, over 5 years.
OSCAR Project was inspired by Dr. Paula Braitstein, Indiana University, who has had experience working with marginalized groups and the underprivileged in the U.S.A and Canada, and Prof. David Ayuku of Moi University, who has previously worked with street children and orphans, both of who are the principal investigators.
The Co-investigators in the study include Prof. S. Ayaya, Dr. L. Atwoli, Dr. P. Gisore, and Dr. W. Nyandiko of Moi University, Dr. W Tierney, Dr. J. Dickerson, Dr. J Greene, Dr. R Vreeman of Indiana University and Dr. J. Hogan, Brown University.
To improve the health and well being of children orphaned and separated from their parents, it is imperative to understand their care environment. The study intends to describe these care environments and whether they are able to meet basic socioeconomic needs of the resident children and the effect of the care environment on the children’s physical and mental health over time.
Using standardized site assessments, annual medical examinations and psychosocial assessments, the Orphaned and Separated Children’s Assessment related to their Well-Being Project has three specific aims which include;
1. Characterize models of care for children who are orphaned and separated in Uasin Gishu District.
2. Investigate the effect the care environment characteristics on key socioeconomic indicators for orphaned and separated children.
3. Measure the effect of the care environment characteristics on the physical and mental health of the resident children.
Care model in this case refers to the mode of upbringing used as concerns to these children. The care environment is where the children are being brought up, which, in the study, are categorically, children’s homes, households with government cash and households without government cash.
The project seeks to draw its publics from the larger Uasin Gishu and they include children from;
1. Children homes, orphanages, rescue centers etc
Children coming from homesteads, the drawing sample is further divided into those on the government cash transfer program (Drawn from six locations in Uasin Gishu district) and those not on the government cash transfer program (Drawn from the remaining locations).
For children coming from households, the government -through the children’s department in the district- has identified households catering for orphaned children hence a random sample has been drawn from the list provided.
The locations root on the government cash transfer program the chiefs and village elders have provided a list households catering for orphaned children. The lists provided have been used to generate a random sample of households.
The community health workers employed by the projects visit the sampled households and recruit the members to the clinic after verifying that they meet eligibility criteria.
In total the project aims to recruit 4000 children annually and over 5years engage these children with the hope of achieving its objectives which include informing programs and policies at government, facility, community and individual level about the optimal care environment of orphaned and separated children. This will ultimately improve the care, physical and mental well being of the children.
On July 1, 2010, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital’s Director Prof. H.N.K arap Mengech opened a clinic for the project, Adolescent Reproductive Health Clinic, which will be handed over to the Hospital as a reproductive health clinic at the end of the study.
The clinic gives general medical services weekly to boys and girls from street families at Tumaini drop in centre just next to Moi University School of Dentistry. The knowledge obtained from this study hopes to inform programs and policies at the government, facility, community and individual level about the optimal care environment of orphaned or separated children.
Ultimately this will improve their care, physical and mental well-being, consequently facilitating dialogue within the community about the appropriate care strategies for orphaned and separated children.
It also hoped that data from the project will be critical in developing strategies and interventions for reducing the specific vulnerabilities of orphaned and separated children, improving their care environments, and monitoring and improving their physical and mental health over time.
A longitudinal study of these youths will underscore the importance of evidence based policies in addressing the orphan crisis, and will serve to evaluate the effectiveness of various care models and interventions that are being used in Uasin Gishu District.
The OSCAR Project team consists of a medical doctor, Dr. Joram Nyandat, Allan Kamanda, the Project manager, Kirimi Ibari, clinical phychologist, Felix Muyonga, social worker and Joyce Warugu, a nurse, all stationed at the clinic.