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Children bear brunt of Zim isolation

Godfrey Marawanyika

TWO United Nations (UN) organisations have raised concern over lack of funding for HIV programmes for children at a time when global figures show that the epidemic is killing a child ever

y 15 minutes.

The United Nations Children and Education Fund (Unicef) and UNAids expressed their views on Tuesday at the launch of the global campaign to help millions of children affected by HIV/Aids.

They said 100 babies in Zimbabwe were infected with HIV every day. The agencies said orphaned girls in Zimbabwe were now three times more likely to contract HIV than their non-orphaned peers.

“Despite this, HIV prevention remains critically underfunded. Far greater progress in prevention and reduction of orphan numbers can only be made if funding returns to pre-2002 levels,” the aid agencies said.

Although the two United Nations bodies did not elaborate on why funding was dwindling, diplomats said this was because of Zimbabwe’s political isolation.

Unicef said 110 Zimbabweans under the age of 15 were infected with HIV on a daily basis.

“A child here (Zimbabwe) dies every 15 minutes due to Aids,” they said.

“And this year 160 000 children will experience the death of a parent. I have personally seen the impact of Aids from orphaned children to infected children and most mothers who fight to survive.”

At least 3 000 adult Zimbabweans die of HIV/Aids every week. Unicef however conceded that Zimbabwe was one of a few African countries with a national plan of action for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) affected by the Aids pandemic.

Unicef is responsible for the overall UN coordination of the OVC response, and its implementation in the country’s 18 most vulnerable districts.

Unicef said the under five mortality rate rose by 50% from 1990 to 2003 up from one in 12 dying before the fifth birthday in 1990 to one in eight in 2003.

Unicef noted that orphaned girls in Zimbabwe were now three times more likely to contract HIV than their non-orphaned peers.

In a speech read on his behalf, Public Service and Social Welfare minister, Nicholas Goche, said the impact of the pandemic was a major challenge to the nation.

He said there was need to strengthen efforts to prevent mother-to-child Aids transmissions.

“With support from development partners, in particular Unicef, Zimbabwe should be able to make a significant, practical, measurable and sustainable contribution, first of all at community level where the children are, then nationally and globally,” Goche said.

“There are 54 registered institutions in the country that can only care for around 5 000 children at any given time. It is also estimated that around 12 000 children live in the streets around the country. The streets and institutions account for only 1,3% of the 1,3 million orphans and other vulnerable children,” he said.

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