Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 167 out of 182 in the Human Development Index (UNDP's Human Development Report of 2009). According to Rwandan Government sources, 56.9% of all Rwandans live on less than one US dollar per day (Enquête Intégrale sur les Conditions de vie des Ménages 2005-2006, NISR). Rwanda also has one of the highest numbers of orphans worldwide. As of 2005, 21% of Rwandan children were orphans (National Institute of Statistics 2005).These children face highly complex circumstances due to the combined effects of recovery from war and genocide, extreme poverty affecting 36% of Rwandan households, and consequences of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.Communities have already proven to be supportive of orphans and vulnerable children in many ways. For example, many families foster orphans or unaccompanied children. However, the capacity of households to address the situation is decreasing, in part because an increase in fertility from 5.8 children per woman in 2000 to 6.1 in 2005 is causing rapid population growth. The most recent Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), conducted in 2005, reported that only 60% of Rwandan children live with both their parents. That means that 40% either live with only one parent, are fostered by their extended family, or live in households headed by children or young adults. Despite the high-level commitment of the Rwandan Government to achieve the rights of all children without any kind of discrimination, access to basic services for the majority of OVC remains an enormous challenge.
In order to address this situation, MIGEPROF (Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion), in collaboration with its main partners, developed a 5-year National Strategic Plan of Action for OVC in 2007. This Plan of Action constitutes the national framework to guide all interventions in support of OVC. A comprehensive Minimum Package of Services for OVC has been developed (See MIGEPROF's National Guide on a Minimum Package of Services for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children (OVC)).
These services are already implemented by most of the stakeholders working with OVC. One of these services, psychosocial support for the most vulnerable children using a communitybased approach, is an important strategy to address the needs of children living without the supervision of an adult, and to help themcope with their early responsibilities as heads of households.
One of the practices in this field has been the Nkundabana (literally, “I love children”) model. Initiated by Food for the Hungry International (FHI) in early 2000, this model was further developed by CARE International in the former Gitarama province and now expanded to the Northern province.This model has been identified by the Rwandan Government as a best practice, and has been integrated as one of the priority activities of the National Strategic Plan of Action for OVC, under the strategic objective of “Strengthening of the capacity of OVC, families and communities to provide psychosocial care and support for OVC, including preventative and curative measures to increase well-being, resilience and self-esteem of OVC.”