Orphans in the spotlight

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Orphans in the spotlight

Abidjan, 15 April 2002 (PlusNews) – AIDS orphans are better off with their families than in institutions, says USAID.

In a document presented in Cote d’Ivoire last week, at an international week-long workshop to share experiences, USAID said: “Children benefit greatly from the care, personal attention and social relations that families and their communities can provide. Children raised in orphanages often have difficulties integrating into society after becoming adults, and many of them are ill-equipped to cope.”

Jean-Claude LeGrand, regional adviser to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told IRIN the region’s major obstacle was the lack of awareness. But with delegates from 22 countries, the conference underscored an awakening in Central and West Africa to the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on children.

The conference, like others organised for Eastern and Southern Africa, marked a strategic change for organisations involved in fighting HIV/AIDS. In the past the focus was placed on the medicinal approach, but now it is based on protection, encompassing a wide range of activities to prevent and protect children and their relatives, LeGrand said.

UNICEF Regional Director Rima Salah told delegates it was important for the region to build strong partnerships with other organisations. She urged donors to support the region’s efforts.

Delegates pledged to expand national plans of action, conduct awareness campaigns, increase collaboration with governments, and enhance local and international partnerships.

According to UNICEF about 10,4 million children had lost at least one of their parents to the disease by 2001. The majority of them lived in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria has more than 970,000 orphans, while in Cote d’Ivoire there are about 600,000. These figures are expected to double in the next decade.

The conference was organised by UNICEF, USAID, Family Health International, UNAIDS and the International Save The Children Alliance.

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

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