COGRI: One Organization’s Impact on Children with HIV/AIDS in Kenya
In 2016, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) calculated that there are approximately 120,000 children living with HIV in Kenya. Even more shocking is that around 840,000 children between ages 0-17 were orphaned due to AIDS. Amidst this pandemic, the Children of God Relief Institute (COGRI) provides a glimmer of hope for orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Kenya.
COGRI is a nonprofit organization that provides care for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) who are infected with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS; this group also aids the elderly and families impacted by this pandemic.
USAID supports this organization through funding received from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, and helps it deliver quality and impactful HIV care. This organization operates through four different programs based around some of Nairobi’s poorest settlements.
The first program is called Lea Toto and its purpose is to decrease the risk of HIV transmission through the use of home-based care packages and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS. The Nyumbani Home is where children are given outstanding medical, nutritional and academic care with the hopes of becoming graduates and members of Kenyan society.
The organization’s third program, the Nyumbani Village, is a bio-friendly and self-sustaining community that cares for the young and old who have lost family members as a result of the pandemic. And finally, the Nyumbani Lab was opened in 2011 and is an internationally accredited laboratory working to find effective treatments and diagnostics for people with HIV/AIDS in Kenya.
A Holistic Approach to HIV/AIDS
Part of COGRI’s success is due to its holistic approach to the problem. The OVC receive the most support and care including treatment, counseling and testing, education, nutrition, shelter, child protection, case management, psychosocial support and household economic strengthening. Caregivers and communities receive secondary support as these programs impact children and their future income levels.
Healthcare is a huge focus of this organization. To support these children, COGRI provides access to medical care and supplies antiretroviral drugs. Another important part of treatment and protection includes providing sufficient amounts of food and combating malnutrition.
Evidence shows that higher rates of malnutrition contribute to greater deaths in people with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, and this occurrence has caused food security to become a bigger focus within the organization. They would like to guarantee age-appropriate feeding, infant, young child and elderly nutrition and food security for all clients and patients. Beyond physical health, the organization provides services to help with grief and the challenges presented by HIV.
Glimmers of Hope
The holistic approach combined with hope and advocacy make COGRI an effective organization. According to USAID, staff are passionate about advocating for children’s medical treatment and hope that in the future, no children in Kenya will get HIV in utero or during breastfeeding. Additionally, 73 percent of 377 children receiving HIV treatment at one of COGRI’s facilities achieved viral suppression due to correctly following a treatment regimen. This is relevant as Kenya’s overall viral suppression rate in children is only 65 percent.
USAID tells the story of a young man taken to Lea Toto who at age 12 was in poor health from untreated HIV. He received treatment immediately, and that combined with psychosocial support, helped him become a confident and healthier man. He is now 23 with a certificate in graphic and web design and has his own shoe business.
Examples like these show how COGRI’s holistic and passionate approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is changing the lives of children in Kenya and providing hope for a healthy future.