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Two-thirds of Swazis live in poverty, most of them in rural areas. Nearly 40 per cent are HIV-positive, giving Swaziland the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. UNICEF-supported projects are seeking to increase access to anti-retroviral treatments, promote AIDS awareness and fight transmission.
Issues facing children in Swaziland
- The number of orphans has skyrocketed since 2000, reaching 100,000, largely due to HIV/AIDS. The crisis is likely to worsen, as HIV prevalence rates among 20- to 30-year-olds are approaching 50 per cent.
- Mother-to-child transmission of AIDS has increased the infant mortality rate by nearly 50 percent since 1995.
- AIDS has created a vicious cycle by breaking down the institution of the family. Orphans often fall into poverty and hunger, drop out of school, and become vulnerable to violence, rape and abuse. Chronic malnutrition affects 40 per cent of children.
- Swaziland suffers from an acute shortage of qualified health-care professionals.
Activities and results for children
- Access to anti-retroviral treatment was expected to double between September and December 2004, and then double again by the end of 2005, reaching 13,000 people.
- UNICEF and its partners have established a framework that will help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, including training for hundreds of nurses and counsellors.
- A novel partnership with faith-based organizations is yielding tremendous results, harnessing the groups’ influence to bolster children’s rights and to prevent or mitigate HIVAIDS. Among the most successful collaborations is a children’s choir competition involving thousands of children in the fight against HIV/AIDS while raising awareness in every community. UNICEF is working directly with churches, whose members look for opportunities to do good works in the community.
- Neighbourhood Care Points have been established in hundreds of communities as the first line of support for orphans and vulnerable children. Nearly 30,000 such children turn to these innovative centres for food, clothing, roofing sheets, water treatment materials and social services.
- The government’s Education For All programme has provided funds that will allow more than 80,000 orphans and vulnerable children to attend school.
- 'Advocacy by action’ efforts have revolutionized public attitudes about HIV/AIDS and sexual abuse of children. Once hush-hush, these issues are now openly discussed; reporting of sexual abuse (primarily rape) has increased dramatically Child-friendly interview rooms have been added in many police stations.
- UNICEF has supported training for more than 1,500 child protection workers to serve as ‘Shoulders to Cry On,’ offering child-abuse survivors comfort and a sense of hope.