|© UNICEF video|
|The chance to play sports helps build girls’ participation in the UNICEF-FIFA project.|
By Thomas Nybo
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti, 13 January 2006 – UNICEF and FIFA are teaming up to use football to help protect young people in Djibouti against HIV/AIDS. The UNICEF-FIFA project organizes leagues to give young participants a chance to compete and to learn.
At a recent league match, UNICEF's Omar Habib hosted a discussion and information session before the start. This time the participants were girls, mostly between 14 and 18 years old. At the discussion they were taught some basic facts about HIV/AIDS. They also had a chance to ask questions about the virus, which infects 6,000 young people every day around the world.
One of the players at the match was Deka Ali Guedi, 23. "This program is important because HIV is dangerous," she said. "To try to help girls, it's important to develop many girls' teams. We need support because when we play football and when we have a group discussion about HIV/AIDS, we protect ourselves. We build skills."
So far, the UNICEF-FIFA project has distributed 65 sports kits to 160 school teams and nine youth centres, reaching approximately 2,500 children and adolescents, orphans and other vulnerable children. Forty percent were girls – a unique achievement for this country, where girls generally have had few opportunities to participate in sports.
But now things are changing. "Girls' football is accepted by the community,” said Omar Habib. “Through the sport, girls from very poor communities have a right to speak, have a place to say something about HIV and help other people.”
While Djibouti has a relatively low HIV prevalence rate in comparison to other countries in the region, the rate is highest among young people. Some estimates indicate that around 6 percent of people in Djibouti City between the ages of 15 and 24 are HIV positive. This is more than twice the rate among the adult population. By educating the children of Djibouti about HIV/AIDS, UNICEF and FIFA are seeking to increase the likelihood that they will grow into healthy, happy adults.
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on how the UNICEF-FIFA alliance is teaching Djibouti’s young people about HIV/AIDS prevention.
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