UNAIDS, UNICEF, International NGOs Devise New Plan To Assist AIDS Orphans in Sub-Saharan AfricaUNAIDS and UNICEF, along with international nongovernmental organizations and donor groups, during a two-day meeting in Geneva have agreed to a new strategy to assist AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Agence France-Press reports (Agence France-Presse, 10/21). According to a report released in September by UNAIDS and the U.N. Secretary General, 39% of countries with generalized AIDS epidemics have no national policy for providing support to AIDS orphans or children affected by the epidemic. The U.N. estimates that the number of AIDS orphans worldwide is expected to increase from 14 million to 25 million by 2010 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/22). About 80% of those cases will be in sub-Saharan Africa, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 10/21). Meeting participants agreed to a "strategic framework" that will focus on providing "direct support to families and communities" affected by HIV/AIDS in the region. According to UNAIDS, bolstering community-based care for orphans and efforts to keep them in school could cost about $1 billion, according to a UNAIDS/UNICEF release (UNAIDS/UNICEF release, 10/21).
Focus on Grassroots
UNICEF spokesperson Damien Personnaz said that current government structures in sub-Saharan African countries are "too heavy to be very efficient at the grassroots level," adding that at the "same time you have a lot of local communities who actually are much more active and much more close to the reality of the field of these places. So, we need to go directly to them rather than to spend a lot of time and sometimes to waste a lot of time through official government channels." Still, Personnaz said that the strategic framework agreed upon does not call for the groups to "bypass official government channels" but instead forge alliances with central governments that will "allow them to go directly to the local providers of assistance," according to VOA News (Schlein, VOA News, 10/21).
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, "The crisis of orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS is massive, growing and long-term. But two-thirds of countries hard-hit by the disease do not have strategies to ensure the children affected grow up with even the bare minimum of protection and care." UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said, "The challenge now is for countries to prioritize the implementation of strategies that keep parents alive, protect children from violence and exploitation, ensure good health and keep them in school" (UNAIDS/UNICEF release, 10/21).