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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | SWAZILAND: New UNICEF head sees extent of orphans crisis | Children | News Items
Tuesday 15 November 2005
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SWAZILAND: New UNICEF head sees extent of orphans crisis

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


New executive director of UNICEF, Ann Veneman

MBABANE, 25 May (PLUSNEWS) - The new executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Ann Veneman, wrapped up her first official visit to Swaziland on Tuesday, having seen at first hand the scope of the tiny country's poverty and the magnitude of its AIDS orphan problem.

"I've been on this job a little more than three weeks, and this is my first trip to the field. Because of Southern Africa's HIV situation, we are particularly concerned about the impact on children," Veneman told a press conference.

Veneman visited UNICEF-sponsored community care points, where orphans, impoverished and otherwise vulnerable children who are not attending school receive meals provided by the World Food Programme and socialise with other children.

"The community care centre is a new and unique concept in Swaziland. These centres provide a little education and training, and particularly meals and needed opportunities for children that really have nowhere to go," remarked Veneman.

She said she was particularly impressed by the dedication of the volunteers, who put in long hours at the care points.

"I was very struck by the severity of the situation here in Swaziland, but also by the innovative and supportive kinds of solutions that find communities coming together to address these problems," she said.

Swaziland, with a population of just over one million, has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate at more than 42 percent of pregnant women. UNICEF estimated that 35,000 children were orphaned by AIDS in 2001.

The emotional highlight of the tour was a visit to a child-headed household at the Ndlovu family's small farm in the central Manzini region, where a 10-year-old boy was caring for his invalid grandmother and great-grandmother, while his own mother lay bedridden with what was likely an AIDS-related illness.

"This little boy is left to do so much for the grandmother and great-grandmother - you see these type of things all over," Veneman said.

"I go back [to headquarters] with a clearer understanding of the circumstances in Swaziland, the programmes that are being implemented and how donor funds are being utilised," she told IRIN.

At a meeting with government officials and heads of local child welfare NGOs, Veneman stressed the need to build capacity and develop coordinated strategies to tackle the issue of orphans and vulnerable children.


Recent SWAZILAND Reports
New law says death to child rapists in fight against AIDS,  9/Nov/05
New anti-AIDS campaign targets young people,  12/Oct/05
Poverty-stricken AIDS widows pin hopes on new constitution,  26/Sep/05
HIV-positive children more vulnerable to chickenpox,  8/Sep/05
Traditional chastity vow may have lowered teenage HIV rates,  23/Aug/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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