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UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Femi Kuti speaks out against the suffering of Zimbabwean children

Legendary Nigerian singer, musician and activist says “enough is enough – help must come to Zimbabwean children now”.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE, 29 April 2005– Femi Kuti today called upon the international community to rally behind the children of Zimbabwe in their fight against HIV/AIDS.

The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador was speaking yesterday from Zimbabwe as he visited UNICEF projects supporting the country’s growing number of street children and orphans.

“The streets are no place for African children, and yet as AIDS kills more and more Zimbabwean parents, their children are forced onto the streets,” said Kuti. “I know that life, I continue to see that life across this continent and we all must do more to see it stop.”

Despite the world’s fourth worst rate of HIV/AIDS, the highest rise in child mortality of any nation, and the number of street children doubling in the past five years, Zimbabweans receive just a fraction of donor funding compared to other countries in their region.

“There is no excuse for letting the children of this country suffer so dramatically without working harder to find solutions for helping them. We need more projects like those that I saw today – UNICEF projects run by Zimbabweans for Zimbabweans.”

In the morning Kuti visited Streets Ahead, a scheme that provides education, music and psychological support to a Harare’s street children. In the afternoon Kuti went to the outskirts of the capital to see a project that provides education, housing and food to orphaned children who head households.

“You cannot avoid being saddened by what you see,” said Kuti, “but at the same time these children are inspiring. Give them some hope, give them a chance, and they will blossom into the engine of this country.”

Kuti has been in Zimbabwe as the star act of the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA). Said UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr Festo Kavishe: “On Wednesday night Femi brought the house down with an explosive show of energy and passion. He brings this same ardor to his work with children, and UNICEF is honored to have him work with us.”

During an impromptu jam session with some of Harare’s street children, Kuti told onlookers: “Life is not about what you have; it’s about what you do. We must ensure that we make this a better place for our children, so that when we die they will say ‘thank you’. Right now, I don’t think they would.”

Background on Zimbabwe:

Despite the world’s fourth worst rate of HIV/AIDS and the highest rise in child mortality of any nation, Zimbabweans receive just a fraction of donor funding compared to other countries in their region.

This massive disparity in aid comes despite the fact that: 

  •  The under-five mortality rate has risen 50% since 1990 (now 1 death for every 8 births)
  •  One hundred babies become HIV-positive every day in Zimbabwe
  •  One in five Zimbabwean children are now orphans (1 million from HIV/AIDS)
  •  A child dies every 15 minutes due to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe 
  • 160,000 children will experience the death of a parent in 2005

In 2004-5 Zimbabwe received no or extremely little HIV/AIDS funding support from the main donor initiatives: the World Bank MAP Initiative, the Global Fund against AIDS/TB/Malaria (GFATM), or the US President’s Initiative on HIV and AIDS (PEPFAR).

In southern Africa, the area most devastated by HIV/AIDS, the average annual donor-spending-per-HIV-infected-person among these three initiatives is US $74. In Zimbabwe the figure is just $4.

In Zambia, a country with slightly lower HIV rates than Zimbabwe, donors give US $187 per HIV-positive person; in Namibia $101, in Uganda $319, and in Eritrea $802.

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For further information, please  contact:

James Elder
UNICEF Zimbabwe Communication Officer
Tel + (263) 91276120




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