Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wanted: Compassion

AIDS leaves 9 million orphans in Africa
Disease's impact on children still being ignored, charity official says

(From Reuters, March 20, 2006)

JOHANNESBURG - Some 9 million children in Africa have lost a mother to AIDS, British charity Save the Children said Monday, calling on donors to sharply increase aid to meet their needs.

“Incredibly, the impact of HIV and AIDS on children is still being ignored,” Save the Children Chief Executive Jasmine Whitbread said in a statement.

The charity said in a report that a lack of testing facilities meant that many mothers, especially in the poorest countries, did not know their HIV status until they were ill and unable to fight off even the simplest infections.

“The AIDS pandemic robs millions of children of their childhoods as well as their mothers,” Whitbread said. “Children are caring for their mothers, missing school, and having to work because their mothers are too sick to look after them.”

The charity called for a focus on children orphaned by AIDS as well as sick parents, adding red tape was slowing aid flows.

“Donors must spend 12 percent of their AIDS funding on proper support for children,” it said, adding this would amount to $6.4 billion over a three-year period.

In 2006, if Britain, the United States and Ireland met all their pledges, there would be $412 million committed for children -- or about one quarter of the $2.1 billion needed per year.

“This is best case scenario and it’s not yet clear whether all of the donors will meet their commitments,” a spokeswoman for Save the Children told Reuters by telephone from London.
The charity addressed its appeal to the G8 wealthy nations, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank and the European Commission.

Sub-Saharan Africa has about 10 percent of the world’s population but 60 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS.

More than 3 million Africans were infected with HIV in 2005, representing 64 percent of all new infections globally and more than in any previous year for the impoverished continent, according to UNAIDS, the lead U.N. agency against AIDS.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 4.6 percent of young women aged 15 to 24 are infected with HIV, compared to 1.7 percent of young men, according to U.N. data.

Save the Children said most of the 19.2 million women living with HIV around the globe were already mothers.

“To truly make a difference we must also support children whose mothers are HIV positive,” it said.

“In sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 12 million children under the age of 15 have lost one or both parents to AIDS. By 2010, at current rates of HIV infection, this number is likely to increase to 18 million,” Save the Children said.

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