Estimated worldwide HIV infections: 60 391 703 at noon on Wednesday December 15 2004.
One Ethiopian child in 10 is an orphan, according to a report by the United Nations, the government and the Save the Children NGO. The HIV/Aids pandemic, appalling poverty and dire health conditions had left 4,6-million youngsters without parents.
‘Ethiopia is facing a crisis of orphans,” Bjorn Ljungqvist, head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in Ethiopia, said at the launch of a national action plan to help children who have been orphaned and better protect them from HIV/Aids.
Hassen Abdella, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, said the scale of the orphan crisis was ‘tearing at the very fabric of childhood” in Ethiopia.
According to government statistics, 315 people die each day from Aids-related illnesses. About 1,5-million people are living with the virus. Save the Children estimates one
in 14 women in Ethiopia will die during birth compared to developed countries where one in 2 800 women die during birth.
The government said it needed $115-million a month — almost equal to the country’s annual health budget of about $140-million — to help look after all the orphaned children in the country, providing them with such necessities as clothes, food or financial support.
‘Orphans and vulnerable children are very vulnerable to all forms of abuse and exploitation,” the plan states. ‘They face a loss of inheritance rights, loss of opportunities for education, basic health care, normal growth and development and shelter. They are also at risk to the future waves of HIV infection.”
Dawit Yohannes, Speaker of Parliament, said new laws were being introduced to help prevent further exploitation of children. ‘Children are the most vulnerable segment of a society who need special care and protection,” he said at the launch. ‘Owing to their age they can neither take care of themselves nor guard themselves from hazards.”