|© UNICEF South Africa/2006/Hearfield|
|UNICEF Representative in South Africa Macharia Kamau (right) pins the beaded blue-and-red ribbon, symbol of the global AIDS campaign, on the lapel of South Africa’s Minister of Social Development, Dr. Zola Skewyiya, at the 13 July campaign launch.|
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 18 July 2006 – The UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign was launched in South Africa last week during a national conference on orphans and vulnerable children.
Urging a renewed effort to address the impact of HIV and AIDS on children, the South African Minister of Social Development, Dr. Zola Skweyiya, said the launch and conference presented an opportunity to coordinate policy and deliver services to children affected and infected by the disease.
Dr. Skweyiya reiterated the government’s commitment to working in partnership with UNICEF and called on delegates to step up support for orphans and vulnerable children.
Commitment to children
UNICEF Representative in South Africa Macharia Kamau congratulated the country on its courage and dedication to justice, which he said occupies a special place in the heart of Africa and the world.
“Whilst its challenges are enormous,” said Mr. Kamau, “South Africa has shown unabashed commitment to the cause of children, championing exemplary legislation in the Children’s Bill” – which guarantees basic rights and protections for every child – “and changing the lives of some 7 million vulnerable children through its social security system.”
Mr. Kamau also praised the new Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative, which has placed children prominently on the nation’s economic development agenda. In a country where HIV is redefining childhood, UNICEF works with the Departments of Health and Social Development, and other partners, to respond to areas of greatest need for children in health and protection.
Expanding access to care
Despite these advances, however, much remains to be done. Preventing the spread of HIV infection, keeping parents alive and providing access to treatment and care for infants to ensure their survival – all pillars of the global AIDS campaign – require accelerated and focused action.
An estimated 100,000 infants in South Africa need paediatric treatment, for example, yet only 20,000 are getting such care. “It is inexcusable that children should die as a result lack of access to care,” said Mr. Kamau. “We need to move these numbers up.”
Some 500 delegates attended the four-day conference, which ended on 15 July. Among the participants were provincial ministers, parliamentarians, representatives of civil society and partners from the private sector. About 90 HIV-affected children also participated, offering personal testimonies about their lives.