Mrs. Marjorie KABUYA

on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

New York,
10 May 2002

The Secretary General,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

My name is Marjorie Kabuya and I have worked in community development for 20 years. I am representing NGOs that are working with families and children affected by HIV/AIDS.

In the short time that I have availed to me, I will focus my attention on the greatest threat to the gains made so far in the Survival, Development, Protection and participation of children

It is the threat of HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa.. Statistics which appear daily in the media do not 4nvey the human tragedy at the individual and community level to which this epidemic has given birth.

I have therefore chosen to explain it to you through Baraka's story.
Baraka is a 7 year old girl in a rural project in Kenya. She is sitting in a classroom where the assignment is
"Draw your community today and then draw it 10 years from now."
In the first drawing, she draws herself, her parents, children playing outside a few cows and goats. In the second drawing projecting 10 years later she draws her siblings, other children, a few animals but not a single adult is in the picture. When asked by a social worker why? She says, "they are all dead".
It is now 10 years later and Baraka's picture has become a reality for her. She dropped out of school to care for her sick parents-a caregiver without information, skills or supplies. She is now the head of her family of four siblings. Often they have neither food nor money to buy it. The three children are malnourished and their attendance to school is 'erratic. She constantly worries about their future.
To cater for them, she is exposed to abuse, exploi ation and hazardous labour. She herself is in danger of being infected.

HIV/AIDS is preventable. HIV/AIDS knows no borders. We call upon all Governments to declare it a Disaster, prioritize and make specific commitments and allocate funds to preventive efforts. Governments must set aside their own political agendas, and philosophies and subordinate them to the best interest of children.

The lesson of Africa must be learned by other parts of the world, e.g. Latin America, Asia and Central Europe. Governments must not wait until more people die before recognising these pandemic as one of the most urgent crisis of our time.

Governments must redefine HIV/AIDs as a young peoples problem especially adolescents girls. The spread and impact of HIV/AIDS is interconnected with other fundamental problems of development. Governments must recommit themselves to serious and sustainable actions to address the issues of poverty, reducing conflicts and improving the status of women. These issues must addressed in a holistic and integrated manner which include children's opinions and contributions.
Support for Orphans from AIDS.

Baraka and her siblings are now in danger of losing their home and land to their uncle who claims ownership due to customary inheritance system. Where can she go for help? Governments must make AIDS infected and affected a priority for policy and legal protection. Children must be protected against abuse, neglect, disinheritance and premature withdrawal from school through child friendly and enforceable laws and provision of education to communities on the legal rights of children.

There is a need to provide legal assistance for children in property disputes or to modify dispute resolution procedures so that reliance on legal assistance becomes less necessary. Following on the example of community health as a response for "where there is no doctor", we now need an equivalent and appropriate response to " where there is no lawyer".

As we get in the third decade of this pandemic, we call upon governments and NGOs to make commitments to identify, develop, support and scale up successful prevention strategies and care models. Governments, NGOs and other donors must focus more funding on building capacities of communities to handle Baraka's problems and those of her contemporaries.

For example, Christian Children's Fund is supporting neighbourhood groups that are helping Baraka and her siblings, keep their home, stay together as a family and continue in school. Innovative strategies and models need to be documented, replicated and shared as widely and as quickly as possible.

The time for action is now. We have discussed, we know the magnitude of the problem and now we need to act on what we know. In conclusion, the leaders represented here today and all adults are responsible for addressing the crisis of hope represented in Baraka's picture.

Governments, NGOs, donors and all interest groups must make commitments, allocate funds and people to this commitment so that children can again believe that they can live longer and healthier lives and have better life chances than their parents. Let us put more hope in Baraka's picture.