- Zimbabwe is currently facing the world's fastest rise in child mortality, mostly due to the AIDS pandemic. However, also severe droughts, human rights violations and lack of foreign investment and support have contributed to the worst humanitarian crisis the country has ever faced.
The under-five mortality rate has risen 50 percent since 1990, according to information released today by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). Zimbabwean parents now register 1 death for every 8 births.
The new UNICEF statistics for Zimbabwe paint a picture of a country in a deep crisis. One hundred babies become HIV-positive every day in Zimbabwe. One in five Zimbabwean children are now orphans - 1 million of them lost their parents to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. "A child dies every 15 minutes due to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe," UNICEF has calculated. Only this year, some 160,000 children will experience the death of a parent.
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy yesterday in Johannesburg, South Africa, expressed great concern of these developments in Zimbabwe. "Every day children in Zimbabwe are dying of HIV/AIDS, every day children are becoming infected, orphaned, and forced to leave school to care for sick parents," Ms Bellamy said.
The UNICEF leader urged donor countries to look beyond Zimbabwe's upcoming unfair elections. "The world must differentiate between the politics and the people of Zimbabwe," said Ms Bellamy. Currently, Zimbabweans at large are victims to their non-elected government unpopularity abroad.
Despite the world's fourth worst rate of HIV/AIDS and the highest rise in child mortality of any nation, Zimbabweans receive just a fraction of donor funding compared to other countries in their region. By withholding desperately needed support for basic health care and education, donors were also "missing an opportunity to engage in a positive way at a grassroots level. I think we could all do better for the children of Zimbabwe," Ms Bellamy said.
Zimbabwe, one of the few countries with a National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), receives US$ 4 per year in donor spending per HIV-infected person, UNICEF said, while Eritrea receives US$ 802, Uganda US$ 319, Zambia US$ 187 and Namibia, US$ 101.
Zimbabwe is also the only African country levying a tax of 3 percent to mobilise domestic resources for fighting HIV/AIDS and it is making inroads, as UNICEF - together with other UN agencies and humanitarian organisations - supports communities in providing counselling and psychosocial support for 100,000 orphaned children, according to the children's fund.
The main reason for Zimbabwe's 50 percent rise in child mortality was the AIDS pandemic, according to UNICEF. Severe droughts, human rights violations and lack of foreign investment and support had however also contributed to the worst humanitarian crisis the country has ever faced, the UN agency said.
- We at UNICEF believe that both the government of Zimbabwe and the international community must work on resolving this desperate situation, Ms Bellamy said. "There is no excuse for letting the children of this country suffer without trying to find solutions to help them," she added.
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