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Press release

UK Invests £22 Million to Improve the Lives of Zimbabwe's Orphans and Vulnerable Children

NEW YORK / LONDON / HARARE, 11 April 2006 – The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has given £22 million to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Zimbabwe in a bid to improve the plight of orphans and vulnerable children across the country.

“Almost one in three children in Zimbabwe, 1.6 million, are now orphaned, having lost at least one parent, and this number is growing,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said. “HIV and AIDS have dramatically increased children’s vulnerability in recent years.”

The funding from DFID – the largest ever to UNICEF in Zimbabwe – will help deliver a national plan of action for orphans and vulnerable children.

“This generous contribution will help us achieve one of the four main goals of the “Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS” global campaign – to protect and support children affected by HIV/AIDS,” Veneman said.

UNICEF convened “Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS” to highlight and address the effects of  HIV/AIDS pandemic on children and to work towards Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6 – to halt and begin to reverse the spread of the disease by 2015.   In addition to protecting and supporting children who have lost parents to the disease, the campaign aims to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, provide paediatric treatment and prevent infection among adolescents and young people.

As part of Zimbabwe’s National Plan of Action (NPA) for orphans and vulnerable children, UNICEF is embarking on a massive programme to improve the health, education, protection and nutrition of the country’s orphans and vulnerable children. The National Plan has the support of the highest levels of government, as well as the United Nations and civil society in Zimbabwe.

The funds from DFID will go towards:
• Increasing school enrolment of orphans and vulnerable children
• Family and community support
• School nutrition programmes
• Increasing the number of children with birth certificates
• Increasing access to food, health services, water and sanitation
• Reducing the number of children living outside a family environment.
• Reducing physical abuse of orphans

UK Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn said, “New data shows that the number of orphans in Zimbabwe will rise even after the number of adults infected with HIV starts to decline. It’s now essential to put programmes in place to ensure these children have somewhere to live, enough to eat, healthcare and education. Today’s funding from the UK Government will help UNICEF reach these most vulnerable of children.”

“We are grateful to DFID for their continued support of UNICEF’s work,” said Veneman.  “These funds will make possible programmes critical to the health and well being of a growing population of children left on their own in Zimbabwe.”

Despite the country’s much-publicised economic collapse, Zimbabweans continue to lead by example in their care for the country’s orphans and vulnerable children. More than 90 per cent of the country’s orphans have been absorbed by the extended family. Two in five households in the poorest areas of rural Zimbabwe care for orphans and other vulnerable children. And yet until now, less than half of all these rural households received any form of free external support in the past year.

The NPA for orphans and vulnerable children now calls upon the private sector and international donors to provide resources; community-based organizations and traditional leaders to support Child Protection Committees at the village, district and provincial level; and parents, teachers, children and church members to work to educate their peers, colleagues and congregations about the NPA, and then push for its success.

All money to Zimbabwe from the UK government goes through UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations. The funds from DFID, in addition to £2m given to UNICEF last year, will be distributed over four years. They come as Zimbabwean children are faced with some of the worst hardships confronting children anywhere in the world. These include:

• A child is orphaned every 20 minutes in Zimbabwe
• One in eight children now die before the age of five compared with one in 13 children 15 years ago
• Three infants become infected with HIV every hour
• Every 20 minutes a child dies of AIDS in Zimbabwe

Hilary Benn added: “Anyone who has seen the hardships of these orphans and the resolve and determination of struggling Zimbabweans to assist them must be moved to help. In UNICEF we have a partner who is reaching out to orphans across the country. I hope others will now join us.”

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:   

James Elder, UNICEF Zimbabwe, 263 91 276120 jelder@unicef.org

Rhyddid Carter, DFID Press Office, London 44 (0)20 7023 0849 Fax: +44 (0)20 7023 0523

Gordon Weiss, gweiss@unicef.org, UNICEF Media, New York (1) 212 326 7426




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