Remarks for Colette Marcellin, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy
Good morning. I am proud to be here this morning to celebrate the USAID Sustainable Comprehensive Responses for Vulnerable Children activity, or SCORE, which has supported so many children and their families on a journey towards stability and resilience.
Over the span of seven years, SCORE has reached 35,000 households and more than 200,000 people, including 139,000 children. These households received services tailored to their needs: increased food security and nutrition, child protection and legal services, and improved access to critical, quality family services. As a result, 83 percent of participating families graduated out of vulnerability, and three out of four graduated households are still resilient three years after they received their last service.
There are many vulnerable children in Uganda. Nearly half of Uganda’s 37 million people are under the age of fourteen. Uganda’s population can best be represented by a 14-year-old girl, living in a household with four other children. She lives in a rural area and struggles to eat one meal a day. Her survival is dependent on how much casual labor she or her family members may earn from day to day. She is at high risk of dropping out before finishing her primary education. There is 40 percent likelihood that she will be married before she turns eighteen. She, like 25 percent of all girls aged thirteen to seventeen, may have experienced sexual violence in the last year, possibly even at school.
The SCORE activity has targeted and engaged tens of thousands of these girls and their families, helping them to make the right social connections and improve their relationships with their caregivers, enhancing their schooling and attendance, and ensuring that they are protected and cared for. This makes me extremely proud.
Child welfare indicators among SCORE’s beneficiary populations have dramatically improved. Child labor has been reduced from 26 to 4 percent, child abuse from 38 to 6 percent, and substance abuse from 7 to 2 percent. School enrollment has increased by eight percent and absenteeism reduced by almost 80 percent.
Households have also made significant gains. Unemployment among SCORE households decreased from 16 to 1 percent, compared to a national average of 9 percent. Monthly household incomes increased by 227 percent. SCORE established more than 1,600 community-based savings group, engaging more than 37,000 individuals and resulting in savings of almost $4 million dollars. This improved financial security gives parents options to improve the well-being of their families. For example, the number of households consuming a balanced diet doubled within the SCORE population.
Working with PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, SCORE helped 77,000 individuals learn their HIV status. SCORE has worked to increase early infant diagnosis, ensuring linkages to long term care and treatment, promoting adherence and ultimately viral suppression for all HIV-positive individuals.
By mapping families’ individual needs and aligning specific resources and services with a household plan, SCORE has not only successfully lifted families from vulnerability, but has also helped them to build levels of resilience, protecting them from falling back into the depths of vulnerability.
The SCORE activity results allow us to see the 14-year-old Ugandan girl through a different lens. She is a proud, productive, empowered Ugandan. This change is a point for celebration and also a great challenge for other activities and for the Government of Uganda. At scale, the approach utilized in SCORE could change the narrative for hundreds of thousands of 14-year-old girls. If life can improve for the average Ugandan, then Uganda’s overall economic stability and future will be stronger.
The approach adopted by this activity exemplifies and embodies the U.S. Government’s approach and its guiding principles. This activity utilized a robust data management system. Each program participant was assigned a unique identifier. A case management approach was utilized to prioritize interventions based on need and to track achievements.
This activity has also demonstrated the need to harness youth-appropriate approaches towards inclusion. SCORE has been a partner in the United States Government’s DREAMS initiative, which stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe, and focuses on preventing new HIV infections and sexual violence among adolescent girls and young women. Through DREAMS, SCORE has empowered more than six thousand girls and young women within safe spaces, building both their social and financial assets through educational support, life skills, parenting, and economic empowerment.
Youth participation and leadership are exemplified by the DREAMS Ambassadors. Today, some of these young women have become the backbone of their resilient families and all of them represent the future of a safer, healthier, and more prosperous Uganda.
SCORE’s achievements are sustainable and replicable. You can see here today the various manuals and publications that have been developed and tested. We see the evidence of the transformative nature of this program in the on-going youth savings and farming groups operating independently, outside of a program. SCORE has demonstrated that resilience can indeed be achieved even by the poorest and most vulnerable households.
I thank AVSI Foundation together with its consortium partners and local implementing partners for making a change in the lives of children in more than 34 thousand Ugandan families. I thank the Government of Uganda, specifically the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social development, for its stewardship of the response to orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda. Finally, I thank the families who have willingly and actively participated in the activity and who we will continue to champion as effectively and efficiently as we can.
SCORE’s model – developed in Uganda for Ugandans – provides Ugandan policy makers, especially government, with a cost-effective tool to change the historical trend and eradicate poverty from Uganda. The United States Government is committed to scaling up this and other successful activities and re-affirms a commitment to its long-term goal of Ugandan-led, inclusive, and sustainable development.