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Community NGO breaks silence around HIV/AIDS
Saturday 7 May 2005
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MALAWI: Community NGO breaks silence around HIV/AIDS

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


The orphans are provided with vocational skills

LILONGWE, 27 December (PLUSNEWS) - In a small village in Kaswela in Karonga district in the northern region of Malawi, 35-year-old Lucy Banda has been critically ill for a year, and her neighbours suspect she is HIV-positive.

Despite numerous visits to the hospital, Banda shows no signs of improvement and spends most of her time lying on her mat, unable to talk or eat properly.

With two children to raise alone after her husband's death, Lucy's neighbours are concerned about what will happen to them should she pass away.

A community based NGO in the district, Chipulikano Orphan Care (COC), is trying to address the problem of caring for orphans and vulnerable children, as well as raising awareness about AIDS within families - traditionally a taboo subject.

"Many parents are dying leaving children behind without anybody to take care of them. What we want now is that the youth should know the dangers of the disease, and we are working with families to achieve this," Makani Lombani, a COC member, told PlusNews.

When COC was started in 2000, 300 orphans were targeted to receive assistance, Lambani said. Four years later, the NGO is caring for 2,075 orphaned children and are struggling to raise the additional funds.

"We need to travel and we need food as well. Our orphans need to go to school and they need fees and school materials," said Ida Mhone, one of 26 COC volunteers.

To help raise funds, the NGO has trained women to produce soap from locally available resources for sale, among other initiatives.

"Apart from soap making, we also have small gardens where we grow vegetables, which we sell. [With] the little we get, we are able to give young boys and girls some technical and vocational skills for them to be self-reliant," social worker Sister Beatrice Chipeta explained.

Most of the NGO's volunteers are women, despite traditional beliefs which restrict women from discussing sex. But as primary caregivers, it is the wives and mothers who are feeling the impact of HIV/AIDS.

"As a locally based NGO, women are encouraged to have a say on issues that affect them. These are the people who are taking care of orphans in our home," said Lombani.

"There is no need now to keep issues of sex away from our children in the name of culture when our people are dying," Lambani added.

"When you ask young people now about AIDS they will tell you that they are more aware than they were two or three years ago in the district. This cannot only be attributed to Chipulikano Orphan Care but other NGOs and government as well. But Chipulikano has made a very significant change," said Chipeta.

Eighteen-year-old Hector Makungwa, who lost both parents to AIDS-related illnesses five years ago, says the youth can no longer be ignored when talking about sex and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

"Both boys and girls should know more about sex and sexuality. This information should not only be limited to older people," he said.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population, 14 percent of Malawians are estimated to be HIV-positive and about 150,000 children have been orphaned by the disease.


Recent MALAWI Reports
Impact of hunger hastens spread of HIV/AIDS - new study,  19/Apr/05
International organisations bring relief to HIV-positive children,  10/Mar/05
Boost for HIV/AIDS treatment programmes,  17/Jan/05
Health sector gets funding boost,  9/Dec/04
Project encourages female condom use,  2/Nov/04
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International HIV/AIDS Alliance

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

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