Building a sustainable model requires local ownership and support. We started with one community in Ethiopia, and called our venture The Betasab Project, after the Amharic word for family.
There are over five million orphans under age 17 in Ethiopia, constituting 11% of all children. Of these, approximately 750,000 have lost either one or both parents to AIDS.1 The HIV/AIDS epidemic has significantly increased the number of child-headed households, altered established cultural patterns of child care, and put a considerable strain on social safety nets in Ethiopia.2
Ethiopia is one of the most rapidly urbanizing countries in the world, with approximately 120,000 new residents added each year to Addis Ababa alone.3 However, Addis Ababa boasts the lowest proportion of children living with both parents (52%) in the country.4 As a result, orphaned and vulnerable children – sometimes called “OVCs” – are at increased risk of abuse and exploitation; loss of educational opportunities; abnormal growth and development; and lack of access to basic health care.4
We know our model to be an effective approach – one we hope to institute in other developing cities around the world. And the basic elements of family, education, and community, seem unassailable. But at the same time, we understand the importance of responding to the particularities of an individual community. This helps us identify a community’s needs and the most effective responses to those needs.
So, in May 2012, a team led by Jennifer Foth, MPH, performed a study of the area in which Betasab operates. Ethiopian health professionals asked 500 households questions on demographic information, access to resources, sources of income, and other concerns.
Here are some of the key points from the 2012 survey.
We give our children a shot with a real family -
- and the nutrition they need to grow.
Children’s material well-being
The material well-being of our children is a key focus of our holistic approach.
Our survey revealed that many children in our target area lack even basic necessities.
Raising children is an integral part of women’s lives in Ethiopia – so much so that there is a stigma around women who do not have families. Our mothers and aunties quickly gain acceptance in their communities.
Our focus on education aims to stop the cycle of little-to-no formal learning.
Sources of caregiver income
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of caregivers do not earn an income. Among those who do earn an income, only 26% have a steady job.
“Other” sources of income include begging, donations from NGOs, and help from relatives abroad.
Who takes over if the primary caregiver has to work, is sick, or is otherwise unable to care for her child?
Sources of caregiver concern
More than half of all caregivers were worried about being able to provide for their children. The 272 worried caregivers were asked about specific sources of concern.
Respondents could choose more than one option.
 UNICEF (2007). Ethiopia: Country Programme Document 2007-2011.
 Government of Ethiopia (2007). Report on Progress in Implementing the World Fit for Children Plan of Action in Ethiopia.
 UNHABITAT (2007). Situation Analysis of Informal Settlements in Addis Ababa. Nairobi: UNHABITAT.
 CSA – Central Statistical Agency (Ethiopia) – and ICF International (2012). Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey 2011. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Calverton, Maryland: CSA and ICF International.
Jen’s study is available for download here.