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Angélique Kidjo calls for rapid scaling up of HIV treatment in Zimbabwe

HARARE, 28 April 2006 – While on a recent trip to Africa to tour the drought-affected Horn of Africa, UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo visited Zimbabwe and met with children infected with HIV. 

An estimated 115,000 children under 14 years of age are infected with HIV in Zimbabwe, which has some of the highest HIV rates in the world.  Each week, 550 children die of an AIDS-related illness and other 565 children become infected with HIV. 

UNICEF is part of a global campaign UNITE FOR CHILDREN, UNITE AGAINST AIDS to alert the world to the fact that children are missing from the global AIDS agenda.

Kidjo visited the Harare Children’s Hospital in an effort to highlight the crisis facing the country’s children, where fewer than 5,000 currently receive ARV treatment.  There, she spoke with the children and their families and paid particular attention to those infected with HIV.

“The stories of these children are both heartbreaking and inspiring,” said Kidjo. “They are living in pain, they are often orphaned, and the world seems more interested in their country’s politics than these children’s plight.

Advocating for the treatment and support of orphans and vulnerable children is at the heart of UNICEF’s work in Zimbabwe.  As part of the country’s National Plan of Action for orphans and vulnerable children, UNICEF is embarking on a massive programme with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to improve the health, education, protection and nutrition of the country’s orphans and vulnerable children.  However, life-saving drugs remain in desperately short supply.

“The vast majority of Zimbabwe’s 115,000 children who are HIV-positive contracted the virus through mother-to-child-transmission,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr. Festo Kavishe.  “The world has the drugs that prevent this and yet less than 7 per cent of Zimbabwe’s HIV-positive pregnant women receive them.”

Kidjo, who has been nominated for three Grammys, was an instant hit at the children’s ward and sang for the children.

“For me, these children are much more than a reminder of how fortunate we are.  Their tears and their strength should remind us of our obligation to support them.”

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, Communication Officer, Tel +263 91276120, jelder@unicef.org




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