Protection and care for children affected by HIV/AIDS
Eastern and Southern Africa is home to more than 10 million children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS, representing 60 per cent of all such children around the world. In Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, more than one in four children under the age of 15 are orphans, while the figure for Namibia is more than one in three.
The experience of orphaned and vulnerable children varies significantly across families, communities, and countries. Studies have shown, however, that most of these children are at higher risk of missing out on schooling, are less food secure, suffer anxiety and depression, and are at higher risk of sexual exploitation and abuse as well as of exposure to HIV. Ensuring adequate care for orphaned and vulnerable children is a tremendous challenge, since the epidemic’s damaging force has drastically weakened traditional protection and care mechanisms such as extended family support.
The epidemic also increased vulnerability and income poverty, and provoked stigma and discrimination against children and families living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. Budget allocations to child protection services remain inadequate and resources are often times insufficient. Where data is available, the percentage of children receiving external support remains low: Only in Swaziland (41 per cent) and Botswana (31 per cent) significant numbers of vulnerable and orphaned children are reached. In most other countries in the region, only around 20 per cent or even much less (7 per cent in Tanzania) of these children receive any kind of external support. It is paramount to highlight the responsibility of governments to ensure a basic safety net that protects children’s rights to health and education, as well as to protection from exploitation and abuse.
UNICEF in Action
UNICEF works with governments across Eastern and Southern Africa to provide a protective and supportive environment for children affected by HIV/AIDS. The focus is on expanding availability and access to integrated and comprehensive services; supporting social protection mechanisms; strengthening national policies, plans, standards and guidelines; improving human resource capacity; and strengthening the collection, analysis and dissemination of relevant data.
In its support UNICEF is focusing on 10 priority countries with the highest number of orphaned and vulnerable children – Angola, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. UNICEF’s regional goal is ensure that these countries develop national child and social protection systems that are child- and HIV-sensitive, with a focus on the most vulnerable families, thus contributing to universal access goals and the achievement of the MDGs. In order to achieve this, UNICEF seeks to leverage additional resources through strategic partnerships with major funders such as the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Global Fund for fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and AusAID.
Results for Children
In several countries, community-based child care forums that look after orphaned and vulnerable children are receiving capacity development and material support from UNICEF and other partners.
UNICEF is also supporting cash transfer programmes for families caring for orphaned and vulnerable children:
World AIDS Day: Stocktaking report 2010