Kokobe Abate is a widow struggling to raise her daughter Almaz in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The death of her husband hit the family hard, but he had given up on life long before he died.
"Even before he passed away, he had stopped providing for us," Kokobe said. "He couldn't bear the idea of living with HIV. I think the guilt is what killed him - after we found out our HIV status he started drinking."
She says the only thing that kept them from joining thousands of families living on Addis Ababa's streets were handouts from neighbours and a 'keble house', a state-owned, subsidised home that her husband left behind, for which she pays 18 Birr (about US$1) per month.
"I tried to do everything out there - washing clothes for people, selling bread, and 'injera' [Ethiopian flat bread], and even opened a 'gulit' [small vegetable shop] in front of my home but I hardly made enough money even to eat a good meal once a day."
Kokobe's luck began to change in September 2010, when she and 13 other unemployed people in her neighbourhood were selected to work in a nearby parking lot, issuing tickets to motorists. She now takes home about 700 Birr (about $41.50) every month.
"I make money now; whether it is enough or not is another thing, but I have a regular income," she said. "[I can buy] exercise books, uniforms, shoes and most importantly, food for both of us, and also [pay for] power and water."
Kokobe was fortunate to find work. Millions of Ethiopians caring for orphans in an economy where annual inflation topped 34 percent in May are forced to sell their property or send young children out to beg.
Now, a new $100 million project aims to assist thousands of families caring for orphans by providing safety nets for an estimated 500,000 Ethiopian children affected by HIV/AIDS every year for the next five years.
Officially launched in May, the project is financed by the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and will be implemented by the US Agency for International Development and its partners, including the UN Children's Fund, an international NGO, Pact, and 50 local NGOs.
Official figures estimate there are 5.5 million orphans in Ethiopia, or almost 15 percent of the country's children. About 800,000 of the orphans have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses.
According to a 2010 study [ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21073083 ] of 334 households caring for orphans in Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region, at least 22 percent of orphans had a history of involvement in child labour, and households caring for orphans often had to sell land, household equipment and domestic animals to feed their families.
|We know that this money isn't adequate to cover... all the needs of the children, but we know that something is better than nothing|
"This programme is expected to provide several service areas: nutrition, health, education, psychological support, legal support, shelter and so on," Walelign Mehretu, the USAID Ethiopia orphans and vulnerable children programme advisor, told IRIN/PlusNews.
The programme will also build the capacity of the Ethiopian government to use improved data management systems, and a national monitoring system for orphans and vulnerable children.
Walelign noted that the average of $200 per child over the five years would not be enough to support all the needs of the targeted orphans.
"One child may only need education materials, which is an expense of once a year so the money could be adequate... of course, some children may need all the services; in that case, what the programme is anticipating is to mobilize the community and to have some other source of resources," he said.
"The problem of orphans and vulnerable children is severe and we know that this money isn't adequate to cover all the expense and all the needs of the children," Walelign commented. "But we know that something is better than nothing."