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Red Cross support restores the dignity of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe
Varaidzo Dongozi, Zimbabwe Red Cross Society
November 14, 2005

As the impact of HIV and AIDS continues to be felt among vulnerable communicates in Zimbabwe, the vulnerable groups themselves have taken the lead to improve their health and social status.

The severity of HIV and AIDS on peopleís livelihoods prompted the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society to add food security and livelihoods as an essential component of a comprehensive response to HIV and AIDS. The programme is currently supporting a total of 96 000 people living with HIV and AIDS and 52 000 orphans in 27 districts of the 57 districts in Zimbabwe.

For Eunice Mpambi, one of the Red Cross beneficiaries, the programme has not only given her the much needed high nutritional variety, but has also helped her to regain her dignity in the community.

"The nutrition that I get from the nutrition garden is very important, and I am also a dignified member of the community again," said Eunice Mpambi, a women living with HIV and AIDS under the Red Crossís home based care project in Chivi, Masvingo Province one of the worst drought affected areas in the country.

"I am now able to buy household items and some school requirements for her five children from the profit which she makes from the sale of the garden produce," added Eunice.

Within the programme, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, in partnership with the International Development Enterprises (IDE) distributed 1200 micro-irrigation kits to clients and orphans, with IDE providing with technical support on micro irrigation and farming systems. The Red Cross, under this partnership has provided the project seeds and fertilizer, with the financial support of the British Red Cross society.

"When we look at HIV and AIDS, the first requirement is food and all other treatments can only work where food and nutrition is available", says Edmore Shamu, the National President of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society.

He added that food security is particularly critical for the vulnerable groups, as it had over the years become unavailable due to persistent droughts and other socio economic factors.

In targeting the orphans and clients with agricultural inputs, the Red Cross recognizes that the existence of the extended family, quite common in Africa culture where relatives of the client would come and help the clientís family work in the fields or back yard garden.

The Red Cross society launched the programme as far as 2003 after realizing that, apart from responding to the immediate food requirements of the people living with HIV and AIDS and orphans, there was also an urgent need to address the long term food security requirements for these vulnerable groups.

"We decided to introduce this initiative after we realized that there was need to balance monthly food distributions and food production by the beneficiaries to minimize dependency," said Mr. Calvine Matsinde, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Food Security and Livelihoods Officer. He also added that they have been varying food ration quantities distributed around the harvesting time and provide agricultural inputs to ensure sustainable food production by the beneficiaries.

Although the country is faced with critical food insecurity due to drought, but the integration of HIV and AIDS programme with a water and sanitation programme, will help improve the quality of life for the people living with HIV and AIDS and other vulnerable groups in the community.

"People living with HIV and AIDS are no different from anyone else and by enhancing their quality of life, we are also promoting the dignity of our humanity", says Shamhu.

Visit the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society fact sheet

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