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UN-backed alliance tackles helping millions of children orphaned by AIDS

UN-backed alliance tackles helping millions of children orphaned by AIDS

With more than 18 million children expected to have lost one or both parents to AIDS by 2010, a United Nations-backed alliance has met to discuss the looming crisis of how millions of children orphaned or made vulnerable by the epidemic can build their futures and remain free from infection.

A two-day workshop last week in Johannesburg, South Africa, hosted by the United Nations and Partners’ Alliance – comprising UN agencies, Governments and non-governmental organization (NGOs) – brought together delegates from Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to confer on policies for orphaned and vulnerable children.

“There is a critical need for scaling up the response. In South Africa alone, there are more than 2 million children from the country’s 18.5 million that have lost one or both parents to AIDS,” said Josee Koch, emergency food security and HIV and AIDS officer for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“Immediate and appropriate mechanisms are needed urgently to stop the spread of HIV and ensure that children are supported on their way to realize their full potential for a better future,” she added.

Without the confidence and skills necessary to build their futures, young people become more vulnerable to contracting HIV, according to a press release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Without options, children could potentially be pushed into activities that put them and others at high risk of becoming infected with the disease.

Participants recognized the crucial assistance to support these children furnished by the Australian Government. Funding comes from the AUSAID, the Government’s aid agency, and is being used for programmes run by the FAO and other organizations that have adopted a livelihoods based approach, including teaching pivotal life skills which will enable children to grow into economically active and productive young adults.