Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Zimbabwe has world’s highest number of orphans

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says Zimbabwe now has the highest number of orphans in the world due to a severe AIDS pandemic hitting the southern African country. The remarks by UNICEF come as the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) announced a massive US$6 million National Action Plan to improve the plight of orphans in Zimbabwe.

Since 2001 ASAP Africa has been working to address the needs of the ever increasing number of orphans in Zimbabwe, working in partnership with the SIDA to achieve the goals set out by the Zimbabwe National Action Plan for orphans and vulnerable children. ASAP is planning to scale up operations during 2007 – with new project partnerships being planned with also Catholic Relief Services, Plan International and Concern Worldwide.

"Almost one in four children in Zimbabwe . . . are now orphaned, having lost at least one parent, and this number is growing," said Dr Festo Kavishe, Unicef Representative in Zimbabwe. "HIV and AIDS have dramatically increased children’s vulnerability in recent years to the point where Zimbabwe now has the highest percentage of children who are orphans in the world." Kavishe said out of Zimbabwe’s 12 million population, 1.6 million children had been orphaned by AIDS. Zimbabwe is among the hardest hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa with official figures putting AIDS deaths at 3 000 people every week. Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander praised the Zimbabwe government for endorsing the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children which is being coordinated by the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare. Zimbabwe is in the grip of an unprecedented seven-year old economic crisis that has seen most orphans and vulnerable children barely surviving.

Adapted From Zim Online (SA), 6 December

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