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Tuesday 15 November 2005
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ZAMBIA: Govt not doing enough for OVC, says official report


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



©  UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

At a community school in Nthombimbi, Zambia, children gather around a water pump. The school is staffed and maintained by the community for children who cannot afford to attend formal school. Many of the pupils are orphans.

JOHANNESBURG, 27 April (PLUSNEWS) - An official report has found that the Zambian government was not "giving sufficient priority" to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and has called for universal access to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

The study by the Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development (MSYCD) reviewed the state of OVC in Zambia over the past five years and found that assistance to the children was being hampered by inadequate funding and a lack of coordination among policies.

"To change this, government at the highest levels needs to accept that the OVC problem is perhaps the greatest challenge to future development in Zambia. The risks presented by a generation growing up without adequate physical and emotional care, or access to good education, are grave," the authors noted.

About 19 percent of Zambia's children aged below 18 have been orphaned by losing one or both parents to HIV/AIDS, according to a joint report by UNAIDS, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the US Agency for International Development, released last year.

The report urged the government to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS in the next five years by rolling out ARV programmes throughout the country, thus providing accessible treatment to parents. "The costs of accessing therapy must be fully understood, and issues of equitable access for the poor must be addressed," it stressed.

Programmes targeting HIV positive children should be put in place, also as a matter of urgency, as most of Zambia's OVC have no access to care and support besides their caregivers. "The government and international community need to increase funding to expand the depth and coverage of programmes targeting OVC, and the families they live with," the researchers recommended.

Government's decision to abolish health user fees for children was cited as a successful policy that should be replicated.

The lack of cohesion within the government in tackling the crisis was examined in detail in the report.

A National OVC Steering Committee, responsible for policy and legal framework, and monitoring and coordinating all OVC programmes across five ministries - MSYCD, community development and social services, education, health and justice - was set up in 2001, but it had not been effective.

"Improved and consistent leadership from MSYCD, which serves as chair and secretariat of this key committee, is needed to bring about the urgent upgrading of its performance," the report suggested.

Since the National OVC Steering Committee was not functioning, the opportunity for dialogue on the children's problems had been "significantly reduced".

There has also been a "confusion of roles" between the MSYCD and the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services since 1991. Besides the two ministries, the National AIDS Council also has "significant influence" over resources that could support OVC.

"Having three institutions responsible for orphans and vulnerable children might be expected to result in a large volume of work, even if it is disorganised. However, each of these institutions is chronically underfunded and short-staffed," the report pointed out.

While donor funding had increased substantially since 1999, the programmes were "not very well coordinated", the study revealed.

"Information is not easily accessible from donors, and recipients of donor funding are reluctant to reveal the sources of their income. Improved coordination would enable organisations at all levels to share experiences of good practice, and facilitate monitoring of resource flows and utilisation."

The government also needed to provide adequate legal and regulatory protection for OVC, the report noted. Parliament had recently ratified laws that increased penalties for the sexual abuse of children, and provided firmer regulation of the participation of young children in paid employment, "however, there has been no comprehensive review of laws that affect children".

For the full report: www.sarpn.org.za pdf Format

[ENDS]




 
Recent ZAMBIA Reports
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Community benefits from free ARVs,  13/Sep/05
Agencies step in to address HIV/AIDS in prisons,  5/Sep/05
Civic groups call on MPs to be more proactive in HIV/AIDS fight,  1/Sep/05
HIV/AIDS affecting quality of education,  2/Jun/05
Links
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