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UNICEF: More Help Needed for Zimbabwe's Children

UNICEF has called for the international donor community to defend Zimbabwe's children as rigorously as they defend democracy.

UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy told reporters in Johannesburg that new data shows that donors give just $4 to every AIDS patient in Zimbabwe, while the figure in the rest of the region is $74. For those in Eritrea it is $802.

Ms. Bellamy said that in the most recent 12 months, Zimbabwe has received no HIV/AIDS funds from the U.S. Initiative on HIV/AIDS, known as PEPFAR, or from the World Bank HIV initiative. In addition, she said, Zimbabwe received exceptionally limited funding from the Global Fund against AIDS, TB and malaria.

Ms. Bellamy, who will soon complete her term of offIce at UNICEF, said the world needs to differentiate between the politics and the people of Zimbabwe.

She said that children in particular are paying a terrible price, including an increase of 50 percent in mortality in children younger than five, with a child dying every 15 minutes from AIDS. One-in-five children are orphaned, one million by AIDS.

Ms. Bellamy said that support from countries in the European community and the East has enabled UNICEF to make some progress in its fight against the disease in Zimbabwe, including counseling for 100,000 orphans and supplementary feeding for 750,000 children under five.

She said Zimbabwe is contributing to the effort to fight the scourge. The government has introduced a three-percent tax levy to fight HIV and Zimbabwe is one of the few countries with a national plan for orphans and vulnerable children.

But Ms. Bellamy said that much more could be done with equitable funding for Zimbabwe's children. She said that donor concerns about governance and human rights are well founded but added that withholding funds from those who so clearly need them does nothing to address those issues. Ms. Bellamy said the world can do much better for the children of Zimbabwe.