Number Of Zimbabwe Orphans Increasing Primarily Because Of HIV/AIDS
Almost one-quarter of all children in Zimbabwe are orphans, primarilybecause of the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to a recentsurvey conducted by Zimbabwe's Central Statistics Office in collaboration with Maryland-based ORC Macro, the Boston Globereports. According to the survey, which was conducted in 2006, nearly22% of all children under age 18 in the country have lost one or bothparents, compared with 9% in 1994 and 14% in 1999. Zimbabwe has anadult HIV prevalence of 18%, the survey found.
According tosome HIV/AIDS specialists, the number of orphans in the country islinked to its long economic and health crises, which began in the 1990sand were driven by policesimplemented by President Robert Mugabe. In addition, the country'shealth care infrastructure has "disintegrated" -- a situation that isreflected in Zimbabwe's declining childhood immunization rates andincreasing rates of stunted growth among children -- according to the Globe."The numbers on immunization reflect the broader economic decline andthe consequent meltdown in the public health care sector," outgoingU.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell said, adding, "Thousandsand thousands of health care workers have left the country."
According to Zanele Sibanda-Knight, advocacy coordinator for the Firelight Foundation,the rate of AIDS-related deaths is higher in Zimbabwe than surroundingcountries because fewer people have access to antiretroviral drugs inthe country. Vinod Mishra, director of research at ORC Macro, said thatincreasing access to antiretrovirals likely would decrease the numberof orphans in Zimbabwe.
According to some analysts, the numberof orphans in Zimbabwe likely is similar to the number in otherSouthern African countries. Jennifer Delaney, executive director of Global Action for Children, said that the survey's findings reveal the need to expand HIV/AIDS programs throughout the continent (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 7/18).
Germany,New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom in February pledged $70million to Zimbabwe to help the country address the growing number ofchildren who have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses.The funding will be administered jointly by UNICEF,nongovernmental organizations and the government to ensure that AIDSorphans have access to services such as education and health care. The$70 million will go toward a five-year, $250 million program aimed atAIDS orphans in Zimbabwe (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/20).
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