Nearly One Million Zimbabwean Children Have Lost One or Both Parents to AIDS-Related Illnesses, UNICEF Official Says
Nearly one million children in Zimbabwe have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses, Dr. Festo Kavishe, UNICEF's representative to Zimbabwe, said in a statement, Zimbabwe's Herald/AllAfrica.com reports. Kavishe said that at least 1.8 million HIV-positive people live in Zimbabwe, and 2,000 people in the country die of AIDS-related illnesses each week. Many of the people dying of AIDS-related illnesses are parents and primary income earners, meaning that thousands of children are left to "fend for themselves," Kavishe said, according to the Herald/AllAfrica.com. Many children who lose parents to AIDS-related illnesses live with their extended family, but Kavishe said, "In such instances, finding enough money to send the children to school, feed them and clothe them is not always possible," adding, "We cannot afford to have more than 20% of the country's children more likely to fall out of school, more likely to be malnourished or involved in hazardous forms of labor" (Herald/AllAfrica.com, 12/20). About 26% of Zimbabwe's population is HIV-positive, and life expectancy has fallen from age 52 to 37 since 1990, according to SAPA/News24.com. Zimbabwe is in its "worst economic crisis since independence" and is facing medicine shortages (SAPA/News24.com, 12/20).
Kavishe said that fulfilling the rights of children who lose parents to AIDS-related illnesses presents many challenges, but those challenges are "based on the choices that governments and citizens of different countries made," according to the Herald/AllAfrica.com. "It is time to redefine our priorities and redefine the choices we make, especially those we know will have a detrimental impact on the right to a good childhood," Kavishe said. He praised the Zimbabwean government's National Plan of Action for orphans and vulnerable children, which aims to provide basic services for at least 25% of the country's AIDS orphans in 2005, according to the Herald/AllAfrica.com. "We encourage government and donors alike to commit the needed resources and political will to ensure that we reach all the children in the country who are at risk of losing their childhood with the safety nets they so badly need to preserve their basic rights," Kavishe said (Herald/AllAfrica.com, 12/20).