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Bottlenecks and Drip-feeds - Channelling resources to communities responding to
orphans and vulnerable children in southern Africa

Save the Children (UK)
June 2005

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Executive summary
One of the biggest challenges in southern Africa is how to support the huge and growing numbers of orphans and vulnerable children within their own communities. Small groups of committed community members are already caring for children - but are in urgent need of more funds and technical support to ensure all orphans and vulnerable children receive the support they need.

This briefing document summarises findings from recent research by Save the Children UK in southern Africa and offers key recommendations.1 It identifies a number of 'bottlenecks' that are stopping the smooth flow of funds to support community initiatives:

  • providing resources to communities is not taken seriously at global and national level
  • current mechanisms do not allow for resource 'flows' that reach community-based organisations (CBOs)2
  • lack of clarity about the numbers of children reached and the quality of interventions
  • donors and governments are not held accountable for spending to support community initiatives.

Southern Africa is in the middle of a protracted and unprecedented disaster, and with HIV/AIDS at its centre, the consequences for children are tragic. More than 12 million children in sub-Saharan Africa have already been orphaned, and millions more are living with sick parents.

Faced with huge numbers of vulnerable children, communities are fighting back, providing care and support. These small-scale, local initiatives can best understand the needs of children in their communities. Indeed, in many countries in Africa, the most effective 'aid' currently consists of the poor helping the destitute. Out-of-pocket spending on HIV/AIDS represents the largest single component of overall HIV/AIDS spending in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In Rwanda it is as high as 93 per cent of overall spending on HIV/AIDS.3

International funding for HIV/AIDS programmes has increased dramatically in recent years. By 2007, global resources for HIV/AIDS are expected to expand to $10 billion. An analysis of reported funding in the 17 most affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa suggested that funding for orphans and vulnerable children in 2003 was around $200-$300 million.4 A number of key international initiatives in the developing world - such as the US Government's PEPFAR programme, the World Bank's MAP programme and the UK Department for International Development's HIV strategy - specifically recognise the importance of supporting vulnerable children and state that channelling resources to community level is a priority. Too little of this money is currently reaching community initiatives.

Getting resources to community organisations As the flowchart below shows, the routes for getting funding from governments and donors to community organisations are long and complex. Central government money is cascaded down through departments, different governmental levels and through sub-contracted organisations. Our research found bottlenecks at every level.

Resource flows at the top of the flow chart are increasing. However, there are bottlenecks at all levels of disbursement, where money gets 'blocked', and much of it never reaches community groups. The money flow is slow partly because of lack of staff and experience - from national level down to the smallest administrative level. Conditions placed at all levels on spending make it hard for community-focused organisations to access funding. It can be hard to apply for funding where there is little information about what is available, and where and how to apply. The process for making applications is also often demanding and time-consuming. Often donors and big international or national NGOs do not know how to 'find' small local community groups.

Community-based organisations need funding that is 'drip-fed' - continuous, steady, small amounts of resources. The research found only a few examples of successful mechanisms for disbursing small amounts of funds to large numbers of CBOs.

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1. This research involved a literature review and interviews with people working at local and district level, including: communitybased organisations, faith communities, small NGOs and local government officials in Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. At national and provincial levels, government agencies,
international and religious donors, NGOs, inter-governmental agencies, local donors, trust funds and community foundations were interviewed. In all, 70 interviews took place with donors, central government representatives, intermediaries and community-based organisations.
2. Community-based organisation (CBO) here refers to an organisation that does not have paid staff and is supported by local contributions.
3. UNAIDS, 2004, 2004 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic: 4th global report. UNAIDS: Geneva
4. Gutierrez and Bertozzi, 2004, ‘Resource availability for HIV/AIDS and the funding gap’, presentation, National Institute for Public Health; UNAIDS, 2004, 2004 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic: 4th global report. UNAIDS: Geneva

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