UN Agency calls for better access to services for war-affected children
Monday 16 August 2004
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UGANDA: UN Agency calls for better access to services for war-affected children

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

KAMPALA, 14 July (PLUSNEWS) - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday called for universal access to basic services for children affected by HIV/AIDS in war-torn northern and eastern Uganda. It said this would help them exercise their right to a more caring environment.

"The recent move to expand the access to anti-retroviral drugs [ARVs] in Uganda is encouraging, but we still need a stronger and forward-looking response, especially in the war-affected regions in northern Uganda where, because of the displacement, infrastructure and health facilities are inadequate," Chulho Hyun, UNICEF's communications officer in the capital, Kampala, told IRIN.

In these areas, the provision of voluntary counselling and mother-to-child HIV-transmission programmes, for example, remained a challenge, he said, noting that UNICEF was calling on all stakeholders to coordinate efforts targeting women and children in the region.

Chulho Hyun was speaking in the context of a UNICEF statement suggesting that in conflict-affected districts, children living with HIV/AIDS were still excluded from programmes designed to mitigate the effects of the AIDS pandemic. The statement called for more far-reaching assistance to ensure that children
"realise their rights to access basic services and to live in a caring environment".

The statement, issued in Kampala on Tuesday, quoted the UNICEF representative in Uganda, Martin Mogwanja, as saying that expanding the availability of ARVs, and the priority enrolment of surviving parents in free ARV programmes provided a "stronger and more forward-looking response" to the needs of all children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

The agency noted Uganda's achievements in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, which, it said, was attributable to strong government leadership, broad-based partnerships and effective public education campaigns.

Uganda recently launched a national programme to distribute free ARVs through district and regional referral hospitals, which, UNICEF said, had been made possible by assistance from Uganda's development partners like the United States.

"The availability of free anti-retrovirals in Uganda now provides an unprecedented opportunity to assure the survival of at least one parent, who can remain alive to provide love and care for that child. Priority enrolment for these surviving parents must become embedded as policy in all anti-retroviral programmes," Mogwanja said, adding that the country's success in fighting HIV/AIDS would only be measured by the impact on its future generations.

He noted, however, that not every child and young person orphaned by AIDS in Uganda benefited from basic services and child protection, free from discrimination, exploitation and abuse.

He pointed out that the immediate challenge for the Ugandan government and its development partners would be to bring about greater emphasis on addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in the conflict-affected districts, whose plight was being worsened by the conflict and the attendant violence, displacement and poverty.

Hyun said the phenomenon of night commuters - children who leave home every evening to find refuge in public places in towns for fear of being abducted by rebels - was compounding the vulnerability of girls to sexual abuse, as parental guidance was minimal.

"Universal coverage of services for children is mentioned in international conventions and treaties on the rights of children, to which Uganda is a signatory," Hyun noted.

UNICEF urged the commitment of funds and resources to all components of HIV/AIDS care, including interventions for orphans and other vulnerable children at central and local government levels in Uganda.

UNICEF said it was currently supporting the implementation of the Ugandan policy for the care and support of orphans in a number of districts - Adjumani, Bugiri, Kabarole and Masaka - in conjunction with local governments and NGOs.

According to 2003 statistics, Uganda has 2 million known orphans, of whom 14 percent are children. About 940,000, or 48 percent, have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

A joint UNICEF-USAID-UNAIDS report, entitled "Children on the Brink 2004", issued on Tuesday at the 15th international AIDS conference in Bangkok, predicts that sub-Saharan Africa will be home to an estimated 50 million orphaned children by 2010, with more than one-third losing one or both parents to AIDS.


Recent UGANDA Reports
A new hope for orphans,  16/Aug/04
Envoy laments the burden of conflict, AIDS, orphans in the north,  2/Aug/04
US to provide US $51 million for HIV/AIDS,  29/Jun/04
Distribution of free anti-AIDS drugs begins,  14/Jun/04
Companies slow to respond to epidemic,  29/Dec/03
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making A difference for Children Affected by AIDS
Children and AIDS International Non-Government Organisation Network (CAINN)

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


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