Catholic Health Care Association of Southern Africa’s (CATHCA) vision is to enable the provision of high-quality health services to all, especially the poor and marginalised in Southern Africa, in the spirit and service of Christ. Its mission is to affirm, develop, support and strengthen both individual health care workers and an evolving Catholic health care network, in conjunction with all other health care role-players.
Founded in 1988, CATHCA is a faith-based health care organisation that serves as an umbrella body for Catholic health care services in South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland. It is an associate body of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
CATHCA serves all people regardless of religion, race, language or gender affiliation. It is a registered nonprofit organisation (006-174) and a public benefit organisation.
In South Africa, the Catholic Church lost most of its hospitals in the mid-70s due to government pressure, but the AIDS epidemic, which began in the 1990s, has given rise to many new initiatives. Some of these are multi-purpose institutions which often have clinics, day care centres, orphanages and hospices all in one centre. Others are home-based care projects, which have now spread to every diocese and almost every parish.
Through its member organisations CATHCA serves the poorest and most disadvantaged communities. Most of its healthcare members work in remote rural communities, where there are few ambulances, limited public transport, poor roads and government health clinics are overcrowded and under-resourced, while distance and lack of transport makes them inaccessible to many. As a result many small home-based care projects, where people volunteer to visit the sick in their homes, have sprung up as community initiatives.
The Catholic health care network in South Africa is now a much more diverse and widespread network than it ever was in the past, in its move away from institutional facilities into community-based health initiatives.
- To continue to strengthen and develop home-and-community-based care aligned to government health care objectives in South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland;
- To deepen the partnership with government – and other key stakeholders – in regard to our members’ work, and through this partnership to act as a voice for the community; and
- To help improve the effectiveness of our member organisations.
Key: OVC – orphans and vulnerable children HBC-home-based care projects
The table above is not inclusive of all Catholic health care work. While CATHCA represents a significant number of Catholic health organisations, there are many other Catholic organisations providing home-based care through their parishes, caring for the disabled or handicapped or the elderly that are not represented above. In addition, most of the organisations run more than one programme, i.e. home-based care and care for orphans and vulnerable children, a hospice and home-based care service, etc. Nearly all the home-based care projects listed above also have an orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) programme.
CATHCA runs four major programmes.
- Services to members
- Advocacy, conferences and workshops, newsletters, project visits.
- Home-based care training and support
- Training of home-based caregivers, provision of home-based care kits and stipends.
- Organisational skills training
- Training in governance, fundraising, financial management, staff policies, running of caregiver debriefing sessions.
- HIV/AIDS prevention and care
- Training of HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) counsellors, peer educators, support for food gardens, support groups, provision of nutrition packs and stipends, administrative resources and materials; and
- Support for orphans and vulnerable children, HIV/Tuberculosis prevention and support.
Through its Global Fund programme, run from January 2008 to March 2012, CATHCA achieved the following:
- Fifty peer educators were trained and ran workshops for 66 093 school children on HIV and AIDS prevention;
- Forty HCT counselors and fifteen HCT nurses were trained in HCT and counseled and tested 85 549 people;
- 28 361 people received home-based care and 1 000 home-based carers received accredited training in HIV, AIDS, TB and home-based care. Twenty support groups were established;
- 1 520 households received nutritional support, and ten food gardens were established; and
- Thirty-four organisations received capacity-building training in financial and HR management, governance and technical reporting (1 421 admin staff and 145 health professionals) and were provided with salaries and administration costs during the programme.
The Catholic Church’s health work in Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa
The history of Catholic health care in Southern Africa from its earliest years records the great work done by many nuns, priests and lay people in the delivery of health care, before government health systems were started. Catholic nurses were frequently called on in times of war to provide hospitals services for both sides, and often opened the first hospitals in Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa, (and also Zimbabwe and Lesotho). Despite having little formal nursing training they invariably won the deep respect and gratitude of those they served.
Nowadays the situation, with government health systems in place, is different, and the needs have changed. Botswana has a very small Catholic population. There are three Catholic clinics, supported by government. The Catholic Church has an HIV/AIDS programme in the dioceses of Gaborone and Francistown, and a small ART programme in the latter which is financed by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for foreigners who do not qualify for the treatment available to citizens of Botswana.
In Swaziland the Catholic Church runs seven clinics and one hospital, the Good Shepherd regional hospital in Siteki, and plays a major role in health care delivery, supported by government with funding for staff, administrative costs and drugs. There is also a parish nurse programme in most parishes in the country, which helps to strengthen community health at the local level.
In South Africa, the Church’s focus is on community health, with 22 primary health care clinics and 99 home-based care projects making up the majority of services offered, together with 21 hospices and several organisations caring for orphans and vulnerable children. The 11 diocesan health coordinators are responsible for several home-based care projects in their dioceses.
The future for home-based caregivers
Given that the majority of CATHCA’s members run home-based care programmes, the Government’s decision to initiate community outreach teams made up of community health workers (CHWs) based at government clinics, as part of its re-engineered Primary Health Care plan, has meant that many of the home-based carers trained by CATHCA in past years have found regular employment as CHWs. This new concept will greatly benefit both patients and caregivers if effectively and comprehensively carried out; the concern is how well the transition stage will be handled, and what the role of the NGO will be.
There is a lot of scope for government to harness the experience and community-rooted nature of NGOs involved in home-based care. What no one wants to see is the degeneration of holistic, dedicated and compassionate home-based care into an uncaring, impersonal and authoritarian service. This is the challenge for CATHCA’s members.
To view the Catholic Health Care Association in the Prodder NGO Directory, click here.