Number of AIDS Orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa May Reach 20 Million by 2010, UNICEF Report Says
The number of children in sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 15 who have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS is set to nearly double from 11 million by the end of 2001 to 20 million by 2010, bringing the total number of orphans in the region to 42 million, according to a UNICEF report released on Wednesday, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Zavis, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/26). The report, titled "Africa's Orphaned Generations," found that by 2010 about half of all orphans in sub-Saharan Africa will have been orphaned because of HIV/AIDS and the percentage could be more than 66% in 12 of the hardest-hit countries (UNICEF fact sheet, 11/26). In addition, in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, more than one in five children in 2010 will be orphans, more than 80% of whom will have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. In countries with stabilized HIV prevalence, such as Uganda, the number of orphans is expected to remain high or possibly increase as parents who have already been infected with HIV die from AIDS-related complications, the report says (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/26).
Extended families, which in many cases are already overwhelmed and overstressed, provide care for 90% of all orphans, the report says. In addition, a growing number of households are headed by women and grandparents, and such households are generally poorer and less equipped to adequately provide for children (Reuters, 11/26). In general, orphans are more likely to be poorer and less healthy, experience cognitive and emotional developmental damage, have less access to education and be involved in child labor than non-orphans, the report says (UNICEF release, 11/26). However, the report says that at present, of the 40 sub-Saharan African countries with an HIV prevalence of 1% or higher, only six countries had a national policy on orphans, eight were in the process of preparing such plans and 26 had no plans (Haynes, AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/26).
"We need to move beyond feeling beleaguered to feeling outraged by the unacceptable suffering of children. We must keep parents alive and ensure that orphans and other vulnerable children stay in school and are protected from exploitation and abuse," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, adding, "The future of Africa depends upon it" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/26). The report calls for "strong action" in strengthening the ability of families to protect and care for orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS; mobilizing community-based responses to the problem; ensuring access to essential services for orphans, including education, birth registration, health care, nutrition, psychosocial support, safe water and sanitation and strong justice systems; ensuring that governments offer protection to orphans and other vulnerable children; and raising awareness to create a "supportive environment" for children affected by HIV/AIDS (UNICEF report, 11/26).
UNICEF Appoints 'Champion for Children'
UNICEF on Monday appointed Kami, an HIV-positive child muppet from South Africa's version of the children's television show "Sesame Street," called "Takalani Sesame," to be the organization's "global champion for children," the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (Koppel, AP/Long Island Newsday, 11/24). Kami, who regularly appears on South African television and radio, will make her first formal appearance in Geneva on Wednesday for the launch of the UNICEF report, the South African Press Association reports (South African Press Association, 11/24). Kami will also appear in public service announcements and as a representative for joint projects between UNICEF and Sesame Workshop, the U.S.-based not-for-profit that produces "Sesame Street" (AP/Long Island Newsday, 11/24). Kami -- which means "acceptance" in the Tswana language -- was created to help destigmatize HIV in South Africa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/7/02). UNICEF and Sesame Workshop on Monday also signed a memorandum of understanding committing the two organizations to working on additional initiatives to promote "child development, health, education and values of dignity, respect and tolerance," the South African Press Association reports (South African Press Association, 11/24). "The appeal of the partnership is that through characters like Kami, we can highlight areas where children are particularly vulnerable -- from illiteracy to disability and abuse -- in ways that are gentle, honest and compassionate," Bellamy said in a statement (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/24).