18 March 2005 Urging donor countries to look beyond Zimbabwe’s elections at the urgent needs of the Southern African country’s children, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has appealed for help to combat the world’s fastest rise in child mortality and the fourth highest HIV/AIDS prevalence.
“Donors are properly concerned about governance and human rights in Zimbabwe, but by withholding desperately needed support for basic health care and education, they are also missing an opportunity to engage in a positive way at a grassroots level. I think we could all do better for the children of Zimbabwe,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said yesterday in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“Every day children in Zimbabwe are dying of HIV/AIDS, every day children are becoming infected, orphaned and forced to leave school to care for sick parents,” she added.
Zimbabwe, one of the few countries with a National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), receives $4 per year in donor spending per HIV-infected person, UNICEF said, while Eritrea receives $802, Uganda $319, Zambia $187 and Namibia, $101.
Zimbabwe is also the only African country levying a tax of 3 per cent to mobilize domestic resources for fighting HIV/AIDS and it is making inroads, as UNICEF, together with the rest of the UN family, supports communities in providing counselling and psychosocial support for 100,000 orphaned children, it said.
More could be done with more funding, however, to lower the present statistic that a child dies every 15 minutes from HIV/AIDS and the overall under-5 mortality rate has risen 50 per cent since 1990 to one death for every eight births, UNICEF said.
Severe droughts, human rights violations and lack of foreign investment and support have also contributed to the worst humanitarian crisis the country has ever faced, UNICEF said.
Over 100 babies become HIV-positive every day and, with one in five children already orphaned, 1 million of them from AIDS, another projected 160,000 children will lose a parent in 2005.
“We at UNICEF believe that both the Government of Zimbabwe and the international community must work on resolving this desperate situation. There is no excuse for letting the children of this country suffer without trying to find solutions to help them,” Ms. Bellamy said.