Beginning his first mission as Eminent Person for the United Nations International Year of Volunteers, former President Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana has arrived in Botswana to draw attention to the work of volunteers in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Rawlings started his week-long effort today by meeting with the President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, and government ministers, according to the UN Volunteers (UNV) -- the volunteer arm of the UN system.
The former Ghanaian President is expected to acknowledge the Government's efforts to address HIV/AIDS issues, and to highlight how information and education can be used to prevent the spread of the disease in Botswana -- one of the countries worst hit by the epidemic. Without AIDS, life expectancy in Botswana would be 71 years, but instead, it has dropped to under 40.
During his mission, Mr. Rawlings will also tour hospitals, clinics and local projects to emphasize the importance of a community-based response to HIV/AIDS and to stress the role of volunteering as an integral part of care for those afflicted with the disease. Mr. Rawlings will also meet with UN Volunteers serving in Botswana, encouraging them to continue their efforts to combat the epidemic.
The General Assembly has designated UNV, which has close to 5,000 UN Volunteers serving in the field annually, as the focal point for the International Year. The agency extends hands-on assistance for peace and development in nearly 150 countries.