In-depth: United Nations Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Support Office for the Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa

AFRICA: "Through the eyes of women"

JOHANNESBURG, 8 March 2004 (IRIN In-Depth) - International Women's Day (8 March) commemorates the struggle of ordinary women as makers of history in their fight for equality, justice, peace and development. The United Nations has celebrated this day since 1975 – the International Women’s Year.

The theme for International Women’s Day in 2004 is “Women and HIV/AIDS”. On this, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said last year “Women now account for 50 per cent of those infected with HIV worldwide. In Africa, that figure is now 58 per cent. AIDS has already caused untold suffering by killing almost two and a half million Africans this year alone, and leaving 11 million African children orphaned since the epidemic began. Now it is depriving these countries of their capacity to resist famine, by weakening exactly those mechanisms that enable populations to fight back -- the coping mechanisms provided by women.”

RIACSO is launching its campaign “Through the Eyes of Women” on International Women’s Day, to honour the many brave women in southern Africa who fight day-in-day-out to provide their families with a meal, who struggle to get healthcare for the sick they nurture, who take on the extra care of their brother’s, sister’s and neighbour’s children, orphaned by HIV/AIDS; and who are often ravaged by HIV/AIDS themselves. The campaign gives credit to the many strong women who stand by their side, highlighting the plight of women overburdened by HIV/AIDS, demanding basic human rights and equality.

The situation in southern Africa is rather unique. The triple threat of drought, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and weakened government capacity has left 6.8 million people in southern Africa in need of humanitarian assistance. In response, the United Nations launched a Consolidated Appeal in July 2003, in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and key NGOs, for US$642 million to address critical needs in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The UN has so far received US$324 million, of which only US$24 million is for non-food activities. This represents just 14 percent of the estimated US$164 million requirements to cover the urgent needs in these sectors during the period July 2003 to June 2004.

The aim of the campaign is to advocate for continued support to humanitarian interventions in the southern African region and to highlight the ongoing crisis through the eyes of women.
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