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Action plan set to help orphans
Saturday 7 May 2005
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ZIMBABWE: Action plan set to help orphans

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

HARARE, 18 June (PLUSNEWS) - In an effort to respond to the ballooning orphan crisis, the Zimbabwean government is set to launch a national plan of action for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs), officials told a national conference on HIV and AIDS this week.

As the growing number of children losing parents to AIDS undermines already overstretched communities and extended families, the plan aims to provide a framework for interventions for OVCs to ensure that laws protecting children are enforced.

The main areas of focus are education for OVCs, support to child-headed households and issues around foster care.

Presenting the preliminary findings to the conference of a rapid assessment on OVCs, Joyce Makufa of the development agency Catholic Relief Services, said one of the major realisations was that the national response had so far been inadequate in addressing "the scale and level of needs and rights of vulnerable children. Even at government level, the data on orphans and vulnerable children is inadequate to make informed decisions." Government figures of over a million orphans are believed to under-estimate the extent of the crisis.

AIDS orphans face huge problems of poverty and stigma, and are often deprived of school fees, food, clothing and sometimes shelter by their "guardians". Children who have lost parents to AIDS also suffer psychological scarring, and are vulnerable to physical, psychological and sexual abuse, experts say.

Greg Pouwels, a paediatrician working with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, welcomed the government's action plan. "Programmes on orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe have been largely uncoordinated and chaotic, and at last we are seeing government efforts to respond to the crisis," he said.

Makufa pointed out that the government's initiative should be anchored within the community as a more sustainable way of caring for orphans. With over 98 percent of orphans in the country looked after by the extended family, she said the national response should strengthen community efforts.

"The national plan of action should provide a mechanism to channel small amounts of funding to formal and informal community groups working with orphans," Makufa suggested.


Recent ZIMBABWE Reports
Unions slam lack of assistance for HIV-positive workers,  6/May/05
Govt plans to replace DOTS,  6/Apr/05
Global Fund grant to come through, finally,  4/Apr/05
Insufficient provision for elderly and infirm voters,  29/Mar/05
UNICEF appeals to donors to look beyond politics,  17/Mar/05
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making a Difference for Children Affected by AIDS

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