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At upcoming MDGs review, protecting children should take centre stage

Nairobi - 2 September 2005 -  As world leaders gather later this month in New York to review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, more support needs to be generated for the National Plans of Action prepared by more than 16 countries in Africa. Ten or so other countries are in the preparation stage with their Plans.

The National Plans of Action identify ways to get and keep children in school and ensure shelter and access to health care for children in countries where long, severe AIDS epidemics, malaria and deadly conflicts have impoverished and orphaned so many.

By 2003, 15 million children under 18 had been orphaned by HIV/AIDS worldwide - about 12 million of these live in sub-Saharan Africa, and this number is expected to rise to more than 18 million by 2010.

A staggering one in five children in Zimbabwe is now an orphan. In Rwanda, more than 100,000 households are headed by children alone, each one a painful and constant reminder of the former genocide and the ongoing AIDS pandemic. In Botswana, some
8,660 households are run by children. UNICEF reports indicate that in Lesotho, 75 per cent of all children who are orphaned, some 143,000, lost their parents to AIDS.

Per Engebak, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa calls for strong support for the National Plans: “The onslaught of HIV has overloaded the caring capacity of communities and families and therefore the coordinated response that National Plans of Action offer is vital.” 

Among the many losses children living without parents endure is the loss of the opportunity to attend school. Unable to pay school fees and struggling to survive, they end up in dangerous and exploitative labour, including commercial sexual exploitation, at high risk of HIV infection themselves.

When the new President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, took office at the end of August he announced free primary education for all children in Burundi, where nearly 50 per cent of primary school-age children are out of school.

The elimination of school fees is a courageous first step being taken in a number of African countries. But obstacles still remain on the path to education. In Rwanda, for example, while most school fees were dropped, uniforms, shoes and books are unaffordable for children living in the many child-headed households. So UNICEF and the Government are working to leverage resources to get vulnerable children, including those living in child-headed households, back into school.. 

The National Plans of Action promise the coordinated and comprehensive approach necessary to meeting the challenges Africa faces in providing for its children and reversing the economic and social declines precipitated by HIV/AIDS, conflict and poverty. These Plans have earned international community backing but funds are still needed to implement them. Estimates are that $1 billion a year (roughly $300 per child) is needed to provide basic schooling, food, clothes and health care for children orphaned by AIDS.


For further information:

Patricia Lone, Regional Communications Advisor:
+ 254 20 622214, + 254 722 520595

Beatrice Karanja, Asst Communications Officer:
+ 254 20 622770, + 254 722 205482






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