1. Assess needs, monitor the situation and its impact
In areas seriously affected by the epidemic, the ability of extended families and communities to provide for the basic needs of children without parents may be threatened. Those from outside the community who wish to provide support should, as an initial step, seek to understand what specific difficulties these children, families and communities are facing and how they themselves are coping with them. Cultural and socio-economic differences will result in different patterns of need as well as different survival and coping strategies both within and among communities and countries. These variations need to be taken into account in planning interventions so that the measures carried out will reinforce and not undermine constructive family and community level efforts.
An inventory and/or needs assessment can provide an initial picture of the situation of children in families affected by HIV. A system for monitoring needs and measuring the impact of interventions over time needs to be established. It can generally best be established by building upon existing systems functioning at the village level and above, such as village health or development committees or health posts. Assessment and monitoring are most effective when they are participatory processes, actively involving people from the communities most affected. Participation in assessing and monitoring needs also creates local awareness and engagement.
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