Every twenty minutes, a child dies of HIV/AIDS and yet another is orphaned in Zimbabwe. In an attempt to change this pathetic condition , the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is planning to launch an ambitious programme to improve the health care, nutrition and education of these vulnerable children.
A donation of £22-million from Britain has already been forwarded to the UNICEF to improve the status of children in the economically poor region. The fund would also be utilized for increasing school enrollments for affected children. Additionally, as a part of the National Action Plan, it would be used for expanding the community and family support programmes as well.
'Almost one in three children in Zimbabwe, 1,6-million, are now orphaned, having lost at least one parent, and this number is growing. HIV and AIDS have dramatically increased children's vulnerability in recent years,' said Ann Veneman, executive director, UNICEF.
According to official reports of UNICEF, every minute, one-child dies of HIV/AIDS related complications and yet another is orphaned. Furthermore, every hour, nearly three infants are infected with the deadly virus, every hour. 15 years ago, one in 13 children died of HIV/AIDS before the age of 5 while now this has increased to a ratio of 1 in 8.
Every week, at least 3000 people lose their lives to HIV/AIDS. The average life expectancy has been lowered from 69 to 40 due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 1980. The good news is that Zimbabweans still continue to set an example in care of vulnerable children. A majority of the orphaned children are being absorbed either by distant relatives or into extended families.
The orphans and vulnerable are being readily absorbed into poor households living around the rural areas. Out of this, more than 50% of the households had not received any form of financial support to take care of AIDS/HIV afflicted children. Although a drop in the rate of HIV infection (26-21%) has been reported since November, the rate is still high.
The huge population and the traditional practice of polygamy is said to pose serious challenges to the accurate assessment of the HIV/AIDS infection rate. The collapse of health services, acute shortage of food, medicines and gasoline, triggered by the soaring inflation rates (913%) has led to home treatment of HIV/AIDS related illness. Most importantly, most burials in the rural areas go unreported. In view of the above situation, it is high time that the allocated funds are directed towards HIV/AIDS care and health education regarding the same.