|© UNICEF video|
|An enthusiastic audience applauded when Benin Minister of Foreign Affairs Rogatien Biaou, UNICEF Representative Philippe Duamelle, and young guests from local NGOs released 2,000 yellow balloons into the sky of Cotonou, at the campaign’s launch.|
By Chantal Lorho
COTONOU, Benin, 4 January 2006 – More than a thousand people, including students, government officials and UNICEF staff, were present at the French Cultural Centre of Cotonou to kick off the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign in Benin.
The launch ceremony began with a videotaped message from several UNICEF ambassadors who emphasized the scope of the pandemic and the needs of children.
Next was a moving presentation from Médard, age 14, on his own situation. He lost his father to AIDS and his mother is HIV positive. Nevertheless the tone of his message was hopeful. Médard called on the public not to reject people living with AIDS. “My mother will always remain my mother,” he said. “I am sure that one day we shall find some medicine that will cure people suffering from HIV/AIDS.”
Speeches and songs
The President of the Republic of Benin, H.E. Mathieu Kérékou, delivered a special message via video on the impact of AIDS in Africa and in Benin, acknowledging the urgency of the fight against AIDS and calling for a strengthened national and international partnership. President Kérékou acknowledged UNICEF’s contribution in helping launch this initiative, and he exhorted all the people of Benin to support the five-year campaign in order to achieve concrete results.
|© UNICEF Benin/2005/Ahounou|
|Beninese singer Zeynab performing at the launch event.|
UNICEF Representative Philippe Duamelle said that the global response to the AIDS crisis has so far not been sufficient. “The current needs are urgent, and our objectives ambitious,” he said. “Only our common efforts and our determination will enable us to reach our goals.”
After the official speeches, the floor was given to Zeynab, a Beninese singer who had just returned from Durban, South Africa, where she received a ‘Kora Award’ for best West African female artist.
The Benin launch took place on 8 December. The following evening in the same venue, more than 1,200 cheering young people sporting the AIDS campaign’s yellow branded T-shirt attended a rap contest chaired by ‘Ardiess’, one of the most famous hip-hop bands in Benin.
The theme of the contest was children and AIDS. The jury, led by rap singer and guest star Didier Awadi from Senegal, chose the group ‘Dynamic’ as winner of the first prize: an opportunity to film a video, with costs paid by UNICEF.
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