Mozambique launches UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS
By Michael Klaus
Maputo, 5 November 2005 – The campaign JUNTOS PELAS CRIANÇAS JUNTOS CONTRA O SIDA (Unite for Children Unite against AIDS) was kicked off throughout Mozambique on Saturday with the main event taking place in the city centre of Maputo. Some 10,000 children joined the First Lady Maria da Luz Dai Guebuza, who is the Patroness of the campaign, President Armando Guebuza and members of the cabinet for a colourful launch on Independence Square.
Also attending the event were Ms Graça Machel, UNICEF Representative Leila Pakkala and representatives from Save the Children Alliance and civil society members, as well as other UN, bilateral and non-governmental partners.
The President of Maputo’s Child Parliament, Hercía Marisa Cardoso Mousanha, said the fight against HIV/AIDS needs the participation of each and everybody, children and adults, Government institutions and non-governmental organisations. The children of Mozambique were very proud to have the First Lady as the Patroness of the campaign, she said.
Maria da Luz Dai Guebuza got very emotional: “We are shocked when we see what AIDS is doing to our children. We see young children who have to care for their elderly grandmothers, because their own parents have already died. Many of our children cannot be children anymore - because of AIDS.” The President appealed to all Mozambicans to join the campaign. “It’s a question of life and death. We have to regain our values, because no child should grow up without his or her family.”
UNICEF Representative Leila Pakkala, the head of Save the Children UK, Chris McIvor, and Paulo Cuinica from the Mozambican NGO FDC came in with a joint intervention to underline the importance of close collaboration: “The success of the campaign in Mozambique will depend on whether we manage to act together or not,” they said. More than 30 national and international organisations joined to participate in the start-up of the campaign. Next week a wide range of partners will meet under the auspices of the National AIDS Council to discuss the specific impact of the pandemic on children and women, and how to accelerate the fight against HIV and AIDS more effectively.
In their statement Leila Pakkala, Chris McIvor and Paulo Cuinica described the different ways of how HIV/AIDS is devastating the lives of children in Mozambique. They highlighted the fact that one in nine children and young people under 18 are directly affected because they are infected themselves, have to care for relatives who are sick due to AIDS or because they have already been orphaned by the pandemic.
In the run-up to the launch, under the guidance of the great Mozambican artist Malangatana young students of the School of Visual Art produced a series of paintings visualising the impact of HIV/AIDS on their lives. The Mural was displayed on the stage in Maputo, which also became the scene of a dance performance on HIV/AIDS prevention given by the youth group of the National Dance Company.
On the same day, the Governors of all provinces organised similar events in their capitals. “The launches were crucial to get the momentum for scale up. But now we have to pull together and work with much more focus and energy. We have to expand programmes dramatically now, if we are going to make a real positive difference in the lives of our children,” UNICEF Representative Leila Pakkala said afterwards in an interview.
On average, about 500 new HIV-infections occur every day in Mozambique, 90 of them among young children through mother-to-child transmission. Because of this around 91,000 children younger than 15 years of age are living with HIV or AIDS. The prevalence rate is even much higher among adolescents who have started a sexual relationship, since this is the main mode of transmission in Mozambique. Almost 130,000 young people aged 15 to 19 are estimated to be living with HIV or AIDS. Girls are particularly vulnerable which is demonstrated by the fact that almost 100,000 of those living with HIV/AIDS in this age group are girls.
In addition, more than 325,000 children and young people under the age of 18 have already lost their mother, father or both parents to AIDS. At least 500,000 are caring for sick family members, which normally makes them extremely vulnerable to malnutrition and all sorts of exploitation.