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Children, Orphaned and Vulnerable, Due to AIDS

A new report says AIDS is leaving many children in sub-Saharan Africa orphaned or vulnerable, threatening their very survival. The report was released Monday at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto. The report is a joint effort by UNICEF, UNAIDS and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR. It says 12 million of sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 million orphans have lost one or both parents to AIDS. VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua attended the briefing on this growing concern.

The report is a joint effort by UNICEF, UNAIDS and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR. It says 12-million of sub-Saharan Africa’s 48-million orphans have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

UNICEF’s Mary Mahy says the situation is expected to get worse.

“If we look at these global numbers by region, we see sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the number of children who are orphaned is increasing. It’s quite dramatic. We see Asia is going down quite dramatically. Latin America, where we already have low adult mortality, is quite low and stabilized. But sub-Saharan Africa is increasing.”

But HIV/AIDS isn’t the only reason children become orphans.

“Approximately 5.5 million children in 2005 alone lost a parent due to causes, all causes, not just to AIDS. We see that this number has increased over time and it’s something we need to be aware of. We know that in the next years as well, in 2006, another 5.5 million children will lose a parent and the guidance and support that parents provides to them.”

However, the UNICEF program officer says children don’t have to be AIDS orphans to be at risk.

“Finally, I just want to touch briefly on what we call vulnerable children. We consider these children living in households where a parent has died or an adult is chronically ill. And we look at just the different aspects of what are their material goods. Did they have a blanket, a pair of shoes, a set of clothes? And we see that the vulnerable children are actually the worse off.”

Among the programs helping the orphans and vulnerable children is PEPFAR. Kent Hill, of the US Agency for International Development, explains some of the support programs.

“To date, 75,000 individuals in the 15 focused countries have been trained to care for orphans and vulnerable children. In addition, hundreds of community and faith-based organizations are now mobilized in the care and support of orphans and vulnerable children. And these organizations can now respond more effectively to the OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) crisis.”

He also says PEPFAR is leading a public and private sector effort to support care and treatment of HIV infected infants and children.

The report, Africa’s Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations: Children Affected by AIDS, is part of the Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign.

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