The population of Swaziland is 1.1 million of which an estimated 123,000 are orphaned or vulnerable children (OVC). Sadly, of the 8,347 cases of violence reported between January 2011 and October 2012, 34% involved children.
Although the scale-up of Anti Retro Viral Therapy (ART) has been successful for adults, the same cannot be said for children where of the 13,871 in need, only 7,802 (56%) are receiving treatment. This number may increase if expanded 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) eligibility guidelines are adopted.
In 2012, there were 1,600 new HIV infections among children. Without early intervention, more than half die by the age of 2 with and 49% of the mortality rate for those under 5 is HIV related.
With all these concerns in mind, delegates were allocated to 8 different groups and assigned topics to discuss and develop initiatives for overcoming difficulties related to the care of children. These included the prevention of the vertical and horizontal transmission of HIV infection in children and adolescents, improving patient initiated HIV testing and counselling, increasing ART initiations and retention, improving TB/HIV co-treatment management, psychosocial support, improving the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services, child protection, and of course the much overlooked access to paediatric palliative care.
Although all the participants realize that much work needs to be done for children in Swaziland, the encouraging take-home message for us was the acceptance that to deliver innovative solutions, a multi-stakeholder approach is needed.
We, as The Rocking Horse Project, need to continuously promote and advocate for paediatric palliative care in Swaziland and it is our privilege and honour to do so.