|Costing Interventions for OVC|
In this sub-section, some common cost issues related to different OVC groups are presented, and there are links to some concrete examples of project costs.
Child vulnerability prevention should be considered in all projects that can potentially affect OVC and/or increase/reduce their number. Preventing children from sliding down the spiral of vulnerability requires information, education and communication (IEC), and the appropriate combination of incentives and disincentives. All stakeholders that can directly or indirectly affect child vulnerability in your project context are potential target groups: ministry partners, contractors and other project implementing bodies, as well as local communities, caregivers, and at-risk children themselves.
Communication is the key to efficient prevention, and IEC interventions come in all sizes and price ranges. Where the message is simple, easy to communicate and easy to sell, a radio information campaign can be very low cost compared to its geographic reach. The cost of producing information material for radio, TV or film can be kept down by using local film teams who will also able to help you communicate your message in a way that is better understood locally. I n the more complex cases (e.g., when you want to change strongly held beliefs about the causes of vulnerability or OVC themselves), sustained communication is necessary, and will require several well qualified and higher cost staff in order to have a significant effect. Staff training and transport costs as well as communication equipment will be important budget posts.
The rest of this section will treat interventions aiming to reintegrate and rehabilitate street children, orphans, child workers, children who have been associated with armed groups and children who live with a disability. It is important to remember, however, that all these types of projects in most cases both could and should include a preventive component. At-risk children can be prevented from ending in the street, orphan vulnerability can be reduced if efforts are introduced even before the death of a terminally ill parent, communities can be warned against the dangers of trafficking or the harm of agrochemicals to working children, and communities can be protected against the abduction and forced recruitment of children into armed groups. Many types of child disabilities can be fully prevented through immunization, improved hygiene or accident prevention. Including preventive components in OVC projects will with all likelihood contribute to reduce the future economic costs of rescuing and rehabilitating traumatized children.
Street child projects: The successful rehabilitation and reinsertion of street children is often very resource demanding. Costs variations are best projected by assessing two key factors: (i) how much time will sustainable rehabilitation and reinsertion take in the case of your target group, and (ii) how qualified (that is, costly) does the staff need to be to deal with their level of trauma. These two factors will depend on (a) the experiences the child had prior to ending in the street, (b) the length of time the child has been exposed to street life, (c) the age at which the child ended up in the street, (d) the age of the child today, (e) the amount of violence and abuse to which the child has been exposed in the street, (f) the value of the child’s present and potential social network (in particular whether he or she has a confidant), (g) the amount and quality of support the child has received from individuals and other projects, (h) whether the child has developed a substance abuse habit in the street (dealing with substance abuse is particularly expensive).
Successful street child projects are mainly based on self-recruitment. The expressed commitment of the child to a difficult rehabilitation process highly improves project success rate. To facilitate self-recruitment, street children projects must finance a staff presence in the streets, where trust is developed, and street children are motivated to enroll in the project. Street social workers need training, and are often equipped with basic medical supplies and games; these costs must be budgeted.
The early stages of the street child rehabilitation process is normally fully center-based, thus requiring capital costs for buildings and furniture, and high recurrent costs for nutrition, hygiene, health and clothing. Before starting to construct, investigate if renting existing facilities could be more cost-effective, or if the community or municipality can offer suitable buildings that do not require too much investment to serve the project effectively. (However, remember that this will only reduce your own direct project costs, since a donated building still represents a sacrifice to the project community. See paragraph on financial vs. economic costs.)
The child is gradually reinserted into family and school. A crucial component that seems highly significant to the success of reintegration is the identification of a family member that can provide some genuine love and care for the child. Successful programs therefore tend to invest considerable time in identifying the right person, and then to gradually preparing that person and the child for the transfer; this process demands skilled staff, and, often, considerable travel related costs. Reconciliation and reinsertion of a traumatized child takes time, and it remains important that both child and caretaker receive follow-up and advice from the project even after a successful reinsertion. 24-hour staff availability for emergency follow-up requests can also be decisive in preventing a relapse – and consequently the loss of the project investment.
For a detailed cost example of an NGO street child project, see Street child project in Cotonou presented in Costs of Projects for Orphans and other Vulnerable Children: Case studies in Eritrea and Benin.
Orphan projects: Not all orphans are vulnerable. Orphans’ needs, and therefore the cost of satisfying them, depend on whether they (a) have lost one or both parents, (b) age, (c) level of trauma experienced before (e.g., prolonged parental illness) and upon becoming orphan (e.g. by war act), (d) own physical state and resilience, but most importantly on (e) the financial means and affection of their extended family and social network can provide.
Orphans’ life situations range from full and well-functioning (family) adoption/foster care to complete abandonment. Care-taking arrangements can fail either because of lack of means or lack of will to give the orphan a good home. In the first case (lack of means), targeted household support programs, like programs for (conditional) transfers in cash or kind can serve to alleviate some of the financial burden of caring for an orphan and thus increase the chances that the child will not be rejected by its adoptive or foster family (more on conditional transefers, see the education section and the health section, or the mission report from Nigeria). Also, schools can be rewarded through a conditional program that makes the school responsible for keeping orphans in the education system (see concept note for a project proposed for Swaziland). When the issue is lack of will (in the sense of abuse and exploitation), the child may need to be removed from the household. For these children, as well as children who have been abandoned or who have fled situations of abuse, relocation to caring relatives would be the best choice. When this is not possible a center based or group home approach may become necessary, but should preferably be temporary. Permanent life in an orphanage or a group home has proven expensive and unsustainable, and it is only recommended in extreme cases.
Child labor projects: Child labor projects vary greatly in type of target group and design, and therefore in cost structure. Generally, they require qualified technical staff that can help younger child laborers prepare for reinsertion into regular school, and older children learn a marketable skill. Child labor projects normally don’t require high capital costs related to civil works. Project approaches aiming to provide vocational training to older children sometimes build workshop facilities, but generally it is more sustainable to make agreements with local craftsmen or to use workshops already existing in the community. Some operations to rescue children who have experienced extreme exploitation, like prostitution or trafficking require temporary harboring and sometimes rehabilitation centers. Preparing younger child workers for reinsertion into ordinary schools also sometimes requires a classroom module. Before constructing, find out if the community has a room that can be used for training, perhaps in the evening, thus lowering project costs. (However, remember that this will only reduce your direct project costs, since a donated building still represents a sacrifice to the project community. See paragraph on financial vs. economic costs.) Child labor projects often need a heavy component of IEC, and can occasionally be based on conditional transfers (more on conditional transefers, see the education section, or the mission report from Nigeria).
Children associated with armed groups: Projects for child soldiers should include non-combatant children who have been associated with armed groups. Child soldier projects resemble street child projects and projects for the worst forms of child labor, although former child soldiers tend to have a higher average age, and a very high level of trauma. Transitional centers need to be set up, preferably piggy-backing on pre-existing programs for at-risk children so as to mix child soldiers with other children; they need to be staffed with social workers and support staff (e.g., cooks, guards). Alongside individual medical treatment (be particularly aware of the high level of STDs and substance abuse) and trauma counseling, children’s families will need to be prepared to welcome back children who have been associated with armed groups, and entire communities may need to be involved in cleansing ceremonies that will reestablish membership in the community for the returning child. Preparing family reunification takes time and requires repeated trips, hence the need for a generous travel budget (see section on OVC and conflict). In addition to providing children with a personal “reinsertion package” (e.g., school tuition and supplies, apprenticeships and tools), it is advisable to finance community-wide projects to increase the chances of acceptance. To keep down project costs (and complexity), it is advisable to coordinate closely with community rebuilding efforts that are generally financed in post-conflict situations. Projects for war affected children are at particular risk for leaking resources to a variety of other interest groups because so many groups are needy in a post war situation, and because the loyalty and sympathy with children who have been associated with armed groups typically is very low. To reduce massive leakages (and thus extremely high per-child costs) while maintaining the necessary community ownership, such child reinsertion projects are therefore often best implemented as add-ons to more general community development projects where other interest groups also get their needs addressed. Communication becomes particularly important to strengthen local buy-in, and skilled, well trained, communicators is therefore likely to be a good investment in ownership and sustainability.
For a cost example of child soldier demobilization project, see Côte d’Ivoire demobilization component.
Child disability projects: Projects for children living with a disability can vary enormously depending on their target group. Interventions vary from ambulant eye-surgery units (rehabilitation) and accident prevention (preventive), to anti-discrimination campaigns, access facilitation and tools (integration), as well as medical care and daily support (coping). In most places in Africa sensitization campaigns are vital to most projects , so make sure to calculate in quality staff , solid staff training and locally appropriate information material/radio campaigns to be able to do it well.
In an African context, center based approaches are generally discouraged, since they not only are costly, but also fortify the stigma that many children living with a disability are confronted with. The increased stigma further complicates the child’s future integration into society and thus leads to long term economic costs beyond the project period, and thus a serious cost-effectiveness concern. In situations where no caring relative can be traced, like in the case of abandonment or large scale disaster situation like post conflict, center based approaches
ILO/IPEC has studied the unit cost of their child labor interventions, and calculated that the per-child costs for their projects in Africa was around $643 for child domestic servants, $518 for children in hazardous work conditions, $2,622 for children scavenging (in Asia they estimate a unit cost of $438 for children in forced or bonded labor, $1,066 for children victims of sale and trafficking, and $759 for children begging and street vending). The sample for Africa, however, was quite small, so these figures should not be considered as standards.
Looking at different intervention types, the same study concludes with an average cost per-child per year of $402 for education type interventions, $730 for vocational training interventions, $291 for interventions based on providing health, nutrition, legal aid and shelter, $119 for interventions focusing on training adults, and $829 for IGA/micro credit type interventions (for details, see The Unit Costs of Programmes to Prevent or End Child Labour).