|© UNICEF Zambia/2010/Inzy|
|Former Zambian President Kenneth D. Kaunda and UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman after holding high-level discussions in Lusaka.|
LUSAKA, Zambia, 9 April 2010 – On a two-day trip to Zambia, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman advocated for greater HIV and AIDS awareness and for scaling up voluntary testing.
“Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa, has been badly hit by the HIV and AIDS pandemic,” said Veneman. “It is estimated that over 1 million people have died from AIDS-related diseases. However, in recent years, there has been progress in preventing the spread of this deadly virus.”
Veneman met with the founding father of Zambia, His Excellency President Kenneth David Kaunda, who has actively led the country in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The former first President of Zambia served as Head of State from 1964 to 1991. In March 2002, he publically tested for HIV.
“President Kaunda has led by example,” said Veneman. “His unwavering commitment in leading the fight against HIV and AIDS is an inspiration to us all.”
AIDS, poverty and education
During the meeting, President Kaunda praised the work of the United Nations and stressed the importance of working together to improve the lives of women and children.
“HIV and AIDS is the most devastating health crisis of our time,” said President Kaunda, who proudly wore a shirt patterned with the signature HIV ribbons. “Ignorance, illiteracy and poverty were major contributing factors to the spread of the disease. Through poverty alleviation and education, we can win the war against HIV and AIDS.”
In Zambia, education is free from Grade 1 through Grade 7. UNICEF is strongly advocating that free education be extended to Grade 9.
“Investing in education is investing in Zambia’s future,” said Veneman.
Maternal and child health
While in Zambia, the head of the UN children’s agency visited a camp for about 1,000 internally displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes due to heavy rains and floods. On behalf of UNICEF, Veneman presented the camp with 400 collapsible water containers and 25 portable latrines to promote safe hygiene.
|© UNICEF Zambia/2010/Inzy|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman with children after presenting new soccer balls to a youth team made up of players from a camp for displaced persons in Lusaka, Zambia.|
Veneman also visited a health centre that is providing basic health services to mothers and newborns, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and essential vaccinations.
“Excellent work is being done,” said Veneman. “The country has maintained polio-free status since 2002. Zambia has also eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus, while diphtheria and pertusis are no longer public health problems.”
A healthy start
The health centre also focuses on the nutritional status of mothers and their babies.
“Malnutrition is a major contributing cause of childhood mortality and is estimated to be associated with over a third of under-five deaths globally,” said Veneman. “The health of the mother is inextricably linked to the health of the child.”
UNICEF and partners, with the support of the government, have implemented robust programs addressing micronutrient deficiencies and educating mothers on good feeding practices so that their babies can have a healthy start in life.