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Red Cross Red Crescent urges support to protect children made vulnerable by AIDS
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
June 15, 2005

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has expressed concern about the future viability of some states in Southern Africa if all stakeholders do not rally to protect and support orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS. The International Federation voiced its concern a day before the Day of the African Child, as it announced a massive scaling up of its activities to support these vulnerable children.

"As the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, we are well-placed to speak for these voiceless children and advocate for their right to a better future. As adults, we have a moral obligation to take care of our children and to give them a minimum decent life," said Mrs Emma Kundishora, of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, one of ten national Red Cross societies involved in the campaign, launched in Johannesburg today under the theme: "Our Children, Our Future."

She underscored the need for all stakeholders, especially the private sector, governments and other humanitarian organisations to play a more active role in ensuring that orphans and children made vulnerable by the HIV / AIDS pandemic have access to basic services such as food, health, education, shelter, clothing and protection, to give the entire region a brighter future.

"A silent tsunami is wiping away an entire generation, leaving millions of children at risk. It is imperative for all stakeholders to come together in support of this cause. If we do not do something today, we will lose the administrators, business leaders, workers and customers of tomorrow. We have to start investing in these children now," she added.

The secretaries general of the ten Red Cross societies in southern Africa have decided to make use of their huge grassroots network of community-based volunteers to reach out to these children and scale up existing activities, which include prevention, advocacy, support and home-based care for those infected and affected. Under the new regional strategy for orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS, the Red Cross is calling for a more co-ordinated effort which attempts to promote community capacity in responding to the needs of these children.

The pandemic has had devastating effects on the lives of children in sub-Saharan Africa; with more than 12 million children there having lost one or both parents to AIDS, a figure that is expected to double by 2010. Millions more are made vulnerable in other ways: poverty; dropping out of school; vulnerability to abuse and prostitution.

"Some families are now comprised of only children, whilst in other house holds, children have to nurse their sick and dying parents. This terrible situation leaves children emotionally distressed as death painfully takes away their parents right in front of their eyes," said Jennifer Inger, the International Federation’s Regional HIV and AIDS delegate in southern Africa.

"In severely affected communities, the epidemic affects all aspects of community life – agriculture, economic and social structures, business, health and education, All this in turn has a huge impact on children and increases their vulnerability," she added.

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