MADISON, Wis.—In Kenya, savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), or credit unions, play an active role in combating HIV/AIDS and assisting the survivors of those who die from the disease. This week, Kenya's SACCOs will ramp up their efforts as part of World AIDS Day. The theme for this year's annual event, celebrated on December 1, is "HIV: Reality," a sentiment that expresses conditions Kenya's SACCOs face each day in serving members touched by HIV/AIDS.
"As trusted member-owned and operated financial cooperatives, SACCOs play a vital role in many aspects of the communities they serve," said Pete Crear, president and CEO of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), which manages development programs that support SACCOs in Kenya and other African nations. "SACCOs provide education and social support in an attempt to help mitigate the impact of this deadly disease."
While growth in the spread of HIV/AIDS has started to slow, the number of those suffering from the disease continues to climb. At the end of 2008, 32.9 million people worldwide were infected with HIV/AIDS, a figure up from 32.7 million in 2007, according to statistics from the United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Of those living with HIV/AIDS in 2008, 22 million lived in sub-Sahara African countries, including Kenya. Some 2.7 million people—1.9 million of whom lived in sub-Saharan Africa—were newly infected last year, up from the 2.5 million infected in 2007.
WOCCU offices in the Kisumu region are pitching in this year to assist SACCOs with reaching out on World AIDS Day to help members better cope with the realities of the deadly disease.
In the community of Kericho, Ndege Chai SACCO will participate in a government-organized World AIDS Day event to more actively address HIV/AIDS' impact in the community. The SACCO has established a scholarship fund for secondary school-age AIDS orphans and has mobilized orphan groups to help improve their economic status. The December 1 event will focus on creating public awareness of HIV/AIDS through talks, music, bodybuilding, beauty and soccer contests. Both the SACCO and WOCCU office have contributed funds to help underwrite the cost of the event.
In Wagi, CENT SACCO is participating in an event organized by the Transformative Agents of Change Initiatives (TACI), which promotes HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and increases awareness among youth through sporting events and community theater. This year's event will include presentations by healthcare providers, as well as a variety of sporting activities and contests. The local WOCCU office has donated 20 assorted sports balls to the effort.
In Kisumu, WOCCU program staff raised 40,000 Kenyan shillings (about US$537), and the program matched the donation for a total of 80,000 shillings (about US$1,073), to build new kitchens for two orphanages. Busia Compassionate Care Centre lost its kitchen during a recent rain storm. The orphanage houses 49 children ranging in age from 2 months to 17 years, of which 13 are HIV-positive and currently on antiretroviral treatment. Migosi Orphanage Home has 30 children ranging in age from 1 to 20 years, of which five are HIV-positive and currently receiving treatment.
"Kenya's SACCOs play an important role in helping educate members and care for orphans of AIDS victims," Crear said. "In Kenya and in other African nations, part of the mission of serving members is also doing what you can to help save lives."
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.