The SMILE Program is a five year (April 2013 –March 2018) Cooperative Agreement between Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). CRS Nigeria leads the SMILE consortium consisting of ActionAid Nigeria and Westat. SMILE is designed to scale-up care and support services for orphans and vulnerable children in Benue, Kogi, Edo, and Nasarawa states and the FCT. The program seeks to improve the wellbeing of 500,000 Vulnerable Children (VC) and 125,000 caregivers. It is being implemented through an umbrella grants mechanism (UGM) whereby CSOs receive sub-grants to support capacity strengthening and OVC program implementation at the community level. The project also strengthens the Nigerian VC response by working at the state level to enhance the coordination and monitoring capacity of the five State Ministries of Women Affairs and Social Development (SMWASD) and Social Welfare Departments of targeted Local Government Areas (LGA). In addition, SMILE facilitates CSOs’ collaboration with communities to increase access to integrated and comprehensive services for vulnerable children and households with a focus on household economic strengthening (HES) and quality nutrition and food security services.
During the reporting period, SMILE conducted a number of activities contributing to enhanced state and LGA capacity to coordinate and monitor services for VC. This included: technical support to facilitate functional coordination platforms and networks in the 5 SMILE states; contributing to establishment and operation of child abuse prevention and response systems in Benue, FCT, Kogi and Edo; child protection policy development and improved child protection case management systems in all 5 states; reactivation of State Child Rights Implementation Committees including technical support to all 5 states to ensure that the Child Rights Law is operational. SMILE also conducted organizational and technical capacity assessments of 20 LGAs and supported the development of LGA performance improvement plans based on assessment results. Pilot of an organizational capacity assessment tool for the network of CSOs against Child Trafficking and Labor was conducted. Efforts to increase VC’s access to vital birth registration were stepped up through supporting partnership between CSOs and the National Population Commission in the 5 states. By partnering with TSHI – Nigeria, SMILE contributed to strengthening of the social service workforce by concluding adaptation of curriculum to be used for training of para-social workers from the 5 states and identifying the first group of community based para-social workers to be trained in January 2015. In the same regard, the program supported states to develop and conduct staff skills assessments, staff development plans and clear job descriptions.
In the same reporting period, SMILE also undertook a series of activities aimed at increasing capacity of 42 civil society organizations to collaborate with communities and effectively manage integrated and comprehensive VC programs. This included continued sub-granting to 42 CSOs and provision of technical support for effective delivery of integrated VC service in areas of education, psychosocial support, child protection, health, nutrition and household economic strengthening including food security. Major activities carried out by CSOs in the last quarter include: facilitating VC access to birth registration; supporting re-enrollment of out of school children and fee waivers; provision of health education to communities; referring children to HIV and AIDS testing and treatment facilities; facilitating kids clubs and child counseling; conducting step down training and facilitate formation of 26 Savings and Internal Lending Committees (SILC) groups; provision of nutrition education and counseling including community IYCF, food demonstrations and basic hygiene.