Hesperian Health Guides
Working together to promote child development
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In order to develop well, young children need food, health care, and loving, attentive caregivers. Caregivers may be the most important of these, because they provide all the others. If they have HIV, it is more difficult for them to meet all of these needs. While children with HIV need more food than other children, families affected by HIV are often poorer. HIV strains health systems, and stigma causes people to avoid what health care there is.
A healthy community recognizes that families should not have to struggle alone with burdens that are too heavy for them, especially when the impact is so heavy on young children. Many communities work together to organize support for families with children, such as:
- income-generating activities for families in need.
- communal gardens to increase access to healthy foods.
- support groups for caregivers, especially children heading households, and for younger children, such as play groups, kids’ clubs, and homework clubs.
- shared family childcare or preschool, so family members can work and children can have extra support for their development.
Preschools (also called nursery schools or creches) are places where children ages 3 to 5 can play together and be supported by adults who talk with, help, and encourage them. Teachers may plan activities, and sometimes provide a daily meal, helping children have enough to eat. Preschools help older sisters stay in school instead of staying home to care for children. With planning, preschools can welcome children with disabilities.
Children see and learn from solidarity, so this is also part of their development. When we listen to children and help them understand, support, and speak up for themselves and each other, this builds and strengthens their families and our communities.
For more ways to organize support for children and families, see Chapter 15.