Crowds filled Danane’s central esplanade for the launching ceremony, which included a parade of women’s groups from surrounding villages and words of thanks and encouragement from the city’s mayor, traditional leaders, officers of the military Forces Nouvelles, project leaders, and representatives of the National Program for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (PNOEV) and PEPFAR.
Project Nunsseu (meaning “the child is the future” in the local language) will provide care and support for 1,500 children orphaned or otherwise made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS in 30 villages in the Danané department and in Abidjan over a three-year period. Le Soutien will also promote HIV/AIDS prevention and testing and will use complementary funds to support income-generating projects for village women’s groups. The HIV/AIDS project is funded through PEPFAR’s New Partners Initiative (NPI), which emphasizes support for new local implementing partners.
Project Executive Director Bossou Stanislas Aurélien expressed his gratitude to the American people for helping Le Soutien reduce the vulnerability of children through support for education, physical and psychosocial health, nutrition, clothing, and shelter, as well as income generation for families hosting orphans and vulnerable children. He welcomed the presence of PNOEV Director Dr. Anderson Clementine as evidence of the commitment of the Ivorian government to the fight against HIV/AIDS and care for children throughout the country.
Speaking on behalf of the U.S. ambassador and PEPFAR, USAID representative Dr. Sibailly Toussaint congratulated Le Soutien and its staff for their impressive work in launching the project under difficult circumstances, in hard-to-reach villages in a region where stability and government services are only beginning to be restored. He described Le Soutien as an “engine of development” that complements PEPFAR support for HIV/AIDS-related work with economic strengthening and empowerment of women in all the villages it serves.
The launch ceremony ended with the handing over of a 4×4 vehicle and 12 motorbikes needed to negotiate challenging rural roads, as well as 10 bicycles that were given to village HIV/AIDS committee members for their prevention and care work at the village level.
Le Soutien, an NGO that started doing HIV prevention and care work in Yopougon in 2003, is one of more than 100 partners and subpartners – from government ministries to local community- and faith-based groups – supported in Cote d’Ivoire by PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), a five-year, $15 billion initiative to help countries around the world turn back the tide of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In Cote d’Ivoire, one of 15 priority countries selected for intensive U.S. support, PEPFAR is by far the largest funder of HIV/AIDS programs, with 2007 funding of more than $84 million.