Working in the Mokhotlong and Thaba-Tseka districts of Lesotho, Touching Tiny Lives (TTL) has been dedicated to helping orphaned and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS and malnutrition since 2004. Staffed and managed locally by Basotho, TTL supports clients in some of the most remote areas of the country. We are committed to saving as many lives as possible, one child at time.
With national HIV rates hovering around 24% (the second highest in the world) and TB rates also soaring at fourth highest in the world, Lesotho is at the epicenter of the global HIV pandemic. The effects of these diseases are far-reaching, often resulting in health complications such as malnutrition and an impaired ability to fight off even common illnesses. These effects are most evident in the youngest generation – those under the age of five.
Basotho children are at the heart of the pandemic’s medical, economic, and socio-cultural impact. AIDS is the leading cause of death in the country and there are an estimated 36,000 children living with HIV in Lesotho. Another estimated 150,000 children are AIDS-related orphans. Even more face nutritional deficiencies as an indirect result of a family member’s illness. TTL responds to the crisis by providing holistic care to vulnerable Basotho children and their families.
Touching Tiny Lives employs a unique model consisting of two in-depth and integrated programs: Outreach – which includes a Village Health Worker training program – and the TTL Safehome. Meet the incredible team that manages the safehome here.
The Safe Home
Sometimes the Outreach team discovers children too sick to remain at home and receive the treatment they need to survive and thrive. In the spirit of our earliest days, TTL operates a temporary Safe Home for the most critically malnourished children to recover and receive developmental support until they can finally be reunited with their families.
An extraordinarily committed team of local female caregivers who attend to each child’s needs all day, every day, staffs the Safe Home. Their responsibilities include providing regular meals, changing diapers, managing medications, attending doctor’s appointments, and providing constant attention and support.
Most children admitted to the Safe Home are identified by our Outreach workers, who either encounter these children during routine village visits, or through referrals made by an ever-growing network of Village Health Workers, chiefs, local organizations, and hospital or clinic staff.
TTL takes immense pride in how rapidly and effectively our Safe Home care procedures work. Children in the Safe Home stay on average three to four months. Those who face additional complicating factors often require significantly longer stays, and TTL continues to provide high-quality care and developmental support to these children. Eventually, the Safe Home children are well enough to return home, where Outreach staff continues to check their progress through regular follow-up visits.
Our Outreach program is at the core of TTL’s service model. Every day, Outreach workers visit a vast network of remote villages throughout Mokhotlong and Thaba-Tseka districts to provide regular follow-up support to existing clients, including those who have left the temporary care of the Safe Home, and identify new clients in need.
TTL travels to areas no one else does to provide a wide array of services including: nutritional packages and education; medical support; assistance with transportation to clinics and hospitals; and child developmental support. This unique practice allows children to remain in the care of family members, which reinforces the family bond and helps prevent the establishment of permanent care facilities, such as orphanages.
The Outreach team also leads the Village Health Workers (VHW) program to meet community needs and identify children at risk.
Village Health Workers Program
In villages across Lesotho, the Lesotho government Ministry of Health has established a network of 5,000 volunteer village health workers tasked with encouraging their communities to pursue life-saving options, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS, TB, and other critical health situations.
In 2008, TTL began to take advantage of these community leaders in the districts where we work and established the Village Health Workers (VHW) training program. Headed by the Outreach team, TTL staff train VHWs to accurately identify serious illness and malnutrition in children using the same key skills our Outreach workers use every day, such as how to use the World Health Organization’s assessments of child height, weight, and middle upper-arm circumference (MUAC) to identify malnutrition.