The Department of Social development will on Friday officially launch a community-based programme to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.
Known as RISIHA, the prevention and early intervention programme will be launched by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu and the MEC of Social Development in Mpumalanga, Lindiwe Ntshalintshali, in Kwa Guqa, Emalahleni.
The programme is already operational, and is aimed at protecting orphans and vulnerable children, some of whom are living in child- and youth-headed households or with chronic health conditions, as well as those living and working on the streets.
The department said when initially conceptualised, the programme was targeted at providing care and support services for children affected by HIV and Aids, as many were left without parents/primary caregivers.
"With the rise in the number of vulnerable children, its scope has since been extended to include all children in need of care and protection, in terms of Section 150 (1) of the Children’s Act (Act No. 38 of 2005).
"The programme seeks to strengthen families and communities as the first line of response in the child protection system, with particular focus on children living in disadvantaged communities, "the department said.
The programme is implemented through the deployment of child and youth care workers, a cohort of social service professionals who render direct, day-to-day, prevention, early intervention, and care and support services within the life spaces of children.
The department said despite the closure of access points during lockdown level 5, the programme provided services to 192 741 children within their homes.
"The official launch of the programme in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has heightened the vulnerabilities of children, will further strengthen South Africa’s child protection system," the department said.
Recently, Emalahleni has experienced reported cases of violent crimes against children, including the gruesome killing of Gabisile Shabane, a girl with albinism, for muti purposes. The case of a mother who poisoned her four children was also reported in the area.
The launch of RISIHA seeks to address these challenges and to strengthen community-based interventions to protect orphans and vulnerable children.