|© UNICEF video|
|HIV/AIDS continues to take a heavy toll on children and families in eastern and southern Africa. A high-level conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, will look at ways to improve responses to the epidemic.|
By David Koch
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, 26 September 2008 – AIDS continues to cut short young lives across sub-Saharan Africa, while decimating families, debilitating economies and weakening societies.
The Regional Inter-Agency Task Team on Children and AIDS in eastern and southern Africa – known as RIATT – will convene a high-level conference starting tomorrow here in the Tanzanian capital. Participants will review progress and achievements to date in order to scale up the response to issues facing children affected by HIV and AIDS. They will also encourage young people themselves to take part in shaping that response.
Representatives of governments, civil society groups, UN agencies, the International Comparison Program for Africa and others are travelling from 19 eastern and southern African countries to attend.
The 23 organizations that comprise RIATT first came together in 2006 to build consensus around a regional strategy for children affected by the pandemic through resource-tracking, social protection measures, advocacy, regional engagement and social innovation. Among the team’s member organizations are the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, UNICEF, the UN Development Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Child participation to the fore
|© UNICEF video|
|Children in eastern and southern Africa bear the brunt of the AIDS pandemic. An upcoming conference will look at ways the region can better support those living with the disease.|
The Dar es Salaam conference will actively promote participation by children and older care-givers in national responses to HIV and AIDS.
The first two days of meetings will be dedicated to a Children’s Special Session. The child delegates will then play an active role in deliberations with adult delegates for the remainder of the conference.
RIATT Conference Steering Committee Chairperson Noreen Huni noted that considerable progress has been made in the fight against the pandemic, but much more can and must be done.
“This conference is really meant to build the adult-children partnerships. We include the children … for influencing policy and responses,” she explained.
Scaling up national responses
Specifically, the RIATT conference aims to:
• Review national progress in responding to the needs of children affected by HIV and AIDS
• Demonstrate and promote the ethical and meaningful participation of children in national HIV and AIDS responses
• Review regional, national and local actions, experiences, strategies and lessons learned
• Identify country and regional priorities for action and follow-up, in order to scale up national responses.
Urgent and sustained action is needed to protect the rights of all children affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa and beyond, and to reach the goal of universal access to AIDS prevention and treatment – especially whilst advocating for a prominent place for children within the global HIV and AIDS agenda.
“This conference, in particular, is to build consensus in terms of ‘how are we responding to the children’s challenges?’ And we need to do more right now in terms of mobilizing the responses in a much more coordinated and concerted effort,” said Ms. Huni.